Key variations for licensing cell IP within the U.S., Japan, and China



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Video games utilizing licensed IP are a gentle presence within the top-grossing ranks of iOS video games. Discovering the proper IP to your style and market can considerably differentiate your sport’s participant acquisition, particularly within the post-IDFA period. A superb IP helps a sport’s subgenre, participant demographic and sport characteristic set and needs to be knitted collectively from an early stage to make sure an optimum enjoying expertise. Let’s look into among the IP utilization tendencies and the way they differ considerably throughout three of the foremost iOS markets we monitor: the U.S., Japan, and China.

United States

Above: Exterior IPs in U.S. market.

Picture Credit score: GameRefinery by Vungle

Above: Shares of various IPs by kind.

Picture Credit score: GameRefinery by Vungle

Trying on the most profitable video games within the U.S. iOS market, it’s clear that, with the notable exception of Pokémon Go, the highest 10 grossing checklist is stuffed with authentic video games not primarily based on well-known exterior IPs.

Taking a look at present information, we see that the share of IP-based titles (excluding PC and cell IPs comparable to Name of Obligation, Offended Birds, or Sweet Crush) had risen modestly to 27% versus when we last looked in 2019, when it was 24%. The distribution of various exterior IP varieties is comparatively even within the U.S., with TV/film and shopper product-based IPs taking the lead. We are able to additionally see a ramification of sport style varieties being utilized by the IP from midcore video games comparable to turn-based, preventing, and action-RPG by to informal Match 3. There are additionally narrative-based video games comparable to Interactive Story and Journey.

Above: Subgenres of sustained top-grossing 100 video games within the U.S. with a TV/film IP.

Picture Credit score: GameRefinery by Vungle

In these top-100 grossing video games, there are clear synergies at work between IPs and sport subgenres. IPs with a wealthy collection of heroes and villains, such because the Marvel Universe, are mixed with RPG subgenres that take full benefit of this variety. The identical goes for 4X technique video games that make the most of the prevailing wealthy character choice and the competing factions dynamic current in IPs like Recreation of Thrones.


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For the U.S. market, essentially the most profitable IP technique is to take a widely known model such because the Marvel Universe, with its intensive character roster and action-packed world and adapt it to an RPG subgenre. The U.S. market additionally favors preventing video games greater than China and Japan that always go for turn-based or action-RPGs.


Above: Exterior IPs in Japanese market.

Picture Credit score: GameRefinery by Vungle

Sixty-six % of the highest 200 grossing iOS video games are primarily based on some sort of exterior IP. What units Japan aside from the US (however, as we will see, is much like China), is that a big a part of these IPs are current standard sport titles on different platforms, with 57% of IP-based video games having the sport (PC/console/arcade) or the sport (cell) IP kind.

Anime/manga is the most well-liked non-game IP utilized in sustained prime 200 grossing video games in Japan. This mirrors the recognition of comedian and TV-based IPs within the U.S. Since standard anime and manga franchises are broadly recognized, they’re simple to combine into the broader model universe. One other IP kind that stands out is the usage of PC/console/arcade IPs. Nonetheless, that is typically the results of utilizing multiplatform IPs comparable to Pokémon or different anime and sport iterations.

RPGs, particularly turn-based video games, are a preferred selection to mix with anime/manga IPs. This follows the general recognition of turn-based RPGs within the Japanese market. Within the RPG style, 72% of video games within the sustained top-grossing 200 checklist have an exterior IP. The preferred of those are anime/manga with 22% and sport (PC/console/arcade), with 30%. Whereas there will be some overlap between these (Destiny/Grand Order is an instance of a sport with each), the 2 emerge as clear favorites in top-performing RPGs in Japan.

Above: Sustained top-grossing 100 video games in Japan with the anime/manga IP. This checklist stuffed with various kinds of RPGs.

Picture Credit score: GameRefinery by Vungle

RPGs are sometimes an excellent match with anime/manga titles since each are typically character-driven, with current fan bases each for the title and particular person characters. This provides ample alternative for character assortment and growth mechanics and gacha or different character acquisition-based monetization. Individuals are prone to need to gather and develop their favourite characters to perfection.

Different subgenres comparable to match-3 use IPs a lot much less, with many profitable entries being the identical ones we see in top-grossing lists in different markets such because the U.S. Nonetheless, this dynamic adjustments once we take a look at the puzzle-RPG subgenre, the place anime IPs are once more standard. This consists of profitable titles like Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle, at the moment sitting within the top-grossing 50. This once more exhibits that anime IPs work nicely with deeper video games with character growth and assortment mechanics.


Above: Exterior IPs in China.

Picture Credit score: GameRefinery by Vungle

Above: Several types of IPs in China.

Picture Credit score: GameRefinery by Vungle

Video games primarily based on PC/console/arcade IPs dominate in China with 51% of video games with IPs choosing this sort. Most of those come from PC video games as consoles are restricted in China.

Japanese anime/manga titles are additionally standard, with each localized Japanese video games and authentic productions made for the Chinese language market using anime and manga IPs, comparable to One Piece: Preventing Path, discovering its means into the top-grossing 200. Nonetheless, all different IP varieties are comparatively evenly represented on this market.

Above: Essentially the most profitable Chinese language cell video games primarily based on the sport subgenre (PC/console/arcade).

Picture Credit score: GameRefinery by Vungle

Comedian/novel IPs are additionally standard, which explains the recognition of video games primarily based on wuxia (martial arts) and novels within the MMORPG subgenre. These novels are typically broadly recognized amongst Chinese language readers and infrequently have expansive character rosters and draw their inspiration from historical China, which inserts the favored aesthetic amongst many Chinese language MMORPGs. Moonlight Blade is an instance of a sport primarily based on a traditional wuxia novel, along with different prime 100 titles comparable to The Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils.

Widespread Chinese language video games are likely to lean closely towards midcore subgenres comparable to MMORPG and 4X technique. A particularity of the Chinese language market is that these are sometimes tailored from current PC sport titles, with expansive storylines and comparatively advanced sport mechanics. Examples embody Three Kingdoms Techniques and Moonlight Blade, each of that are within the top-grossing 20 and are tailored from or primarily based on PC video games.

The Chinese language cell sport market favors extra critical, advanced IPs at the price of lighter IP varieties that had been typically directed initially towards a youthful viewers (manufacturers comparable to Pokémon come to thoughts). Extra expansive worlds and critical, deep in-game storylines and lore are an excellent match with midcore video games. The largest purpose for advanced IPs is the area’s historical past with PC historical past and thus its IPs. Whereas there have been initiatives to restrict minors’ gaming for some years already, the federal government hasn’t actually been implementing them strictly. The latest restrictions that rolled out throughout final month might need some impact going ahead. As an example, 5 years in the past there have been no limitations to minors of any type and the market was already favoring extra “advanced” IPs.

What we’ve realized

Mental property use in all markets hovers on the 25%-30% mark once we exclude current sport IP varieties (assume Pac-Man, Warcraft, and the like). Because of this there’s nonetheless room to find new alternatives for combining video games with a preferred IP (comparable to Demon Slayer). As we’ve seen, the three markets right here all have vital variations in what IP manufacturers obtain industrial success within the iOS market. Within the highest-grossing video games, native is king: Every market favors IPs that buyers already know and love, comparable to anime titles for Japan and comedian and TV properties for the U.S.

Lastly, within the post-IFDA world, IPs can function an important natural pathway for consumer acquisition. By tapping right into a recognized model with a longtime base of enthusiastic followers and mixing it with the best kind of sport, builders and publishers can entry a big potential pool of gamers  who will uncover their sport with out seeing focused advertisements.

Mikael Orpana is the pinnacle of promoting at analytics firm GameRefinery by Vungle, which supplies characteristic degree analytics, market insights, and benchmarks for the cell gaming trade.


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