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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 right IP to your style and market can considerably differentiate your sport’s participant acquisition, particularly within the post-IDFA period. A great IP helps a sport’s subgenre, participant demographic and sport function set and needs to be knitted collectively from an early stage to make sure an optimum enjoying expertise. Let’s look into a number of the IP utilization tendencies and the way they differ considerably throughout three of the most important iOS markets we observe: 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 unique video games not primarily based on well-known exterior IPs.

Taking a look at present knowledge, we see that the share of IP-based titles (excluding PC and cell IPs reminiscent of Name of Obligation, Indignant Birds, or Sweet Crush) had risen modestly to 27{69439eabc38bbe67fb47fc503d1b0f790fcef507f9cafca8a4ef4fbfe163a7c5} versus after we final appeared in 2019, when it was 24{69439eabc38bbe67fb47fc503d1b0f790fcef507f9cafca8a4ef4fbfe163a7c5}. The distribution of various exterior IP sorts is comparatively even within the U.S., with TV/film and client product-based IPs taking the lead. We are able to additionally see an expansion of sport style sorts being utilized by the IP from midcore video games reminiscent of turn-based, combating, and action-RPG via to informal Match 3. There are additionally narrative-based video games reminiscent of 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 present wealthy character choice and the competing factions dynamic current in IPs like Recreation of Thrones.


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For the U.S. market, probably the most profitable IP technique is to take a well 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 combating video games greater than China and Japan that usually go for turn-based or action-RPGs.


Above: Exterior IPs in Japanese market.

Picture Credit score: GameRefinery by Vungle

Sixty-six p.c of the highest 200 grossing iOS video games are primarily based on some type 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 present fashionable sport titles on different platforms, with 57{69439eabc38bbe67fb47fc503d1b0f790fcef507f9cafca8a4ef4fbfe163a7c5} of IP-based video games having the sport (PC/console/arcade) or the sport (cell) IP kind.

Anime/manga is the preferred non-game IP utilized in sustained high 200 grossing video games in Japan. This mirrors the recognition of comedian and TV-based IPs within the U.S. Since fashionable anime and manga franchises are extensively 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. Nevertheless, that is usually the results of utilizing multiplatform IPs reminiscent of 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 reputation of turn-based RPGs within the Japanese market. Within the RPG style, 72{69439eabc38bbe67fb47fc503d1b0f790fcef507f9cafca8a4ef4fbfe163a7c5} of video games within the sustained top-grossing 200 checklist have an exterior IP. The most well-liked of those are anime/manga with 22{69439eabc38bbe67fb47fc503d1b0f790fcef507f9cafca8a4ef4fbfe163a7c5} and sport (PC/console/arcade), with 30{69439eabc38bbe67fb47fc503d1b0f790fcef507f9cafca8a4ef4fbfe163a7c5}. 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 filled with several types of RPGs.

Picture Credit score: GameRefinery by Vungle

RPGs are sometimes a superb match with anime/manga titles since each are typically character-driven, with present fan bases each for the title and particular person characters. This provides ample alternative for character assortment and improvement mechanics and gacha or different character acquisition-based monetization. Persons are prone to wish to acquire and develop their favourite characters to perfection.

Different subgenres reminiscent of 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. Nevertheless, this dynamic modifications after we take a look at the puzzle-RPG subgenre, the place anime IPs are once more fashionable. This contains profitable titles like Dragon Ball Z Dokkan Battle, presently sitting within the top-grossing 50. This once more exhibits that anime IPs work nicely with deeper video games with character improvement 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{69439eabc38bbe67fb47fc503d1b0f790fcef507f9cafca8a4ef4fbfe163a7c5} 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 fashionable, with each localized Japanese video games and unique productions made for the Chinese language market using anime and manga IPs, reminiscent of One Piece: Combating Path, discovering its method into the top-grossing 200. Nevertheless, all different IP sorts 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 fashionable, which explains the recognition of video games primarily based on wuxia (martial arts) and novels within the MMORPG subgenre. These novels are typically extensively recognized amongst Chinese language readers and sometimes 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 basic wuxia novel, along with different high 100 titles reminiscent of The Demi-Gods and Semi-Devils.

Widespread Chinese language video games are inclined to lean closely towards midcore subgenres reminiscent of MMORPG and 4X technique. A particularity of the Chinese language market is that these are sometimes tailored from present PC sport titles, with expansive storylines and comparatively complicated sport mechanics. Examples embrace 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, complicated IPs at the price of lighter IP sorts that had been usually directed initially towards a youthful viewers (manufacturers reminiscent of Pokémon come to thoughts). Extra expansive worlds and critical, deep in-game storylines and lore are a superb match with midcore video games. The largest purpose for complicated 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 newest restrictions that rolled out throughout final month may need some impact going ahead. As an illustration, 5 years in the past there have been no limitations to minors of any type and the market was already favoring extra “complicated” IPs.

What we’ve discovered

Mental property use in all markets hovers on the 25{69439eabc38bbe67fb47fc503d1b0f790fcef507f9cafca8a4ef4fbfe163a7c5}-30{69439eabc38bbe67fb47fc503d1b0f790fcef507f9cafca8a4ef4fbfe163a7c5} mark after we exclude present sport IP sorts (suppose Pac-Man, Warcraft, and the like). Which means there’s nonetheless room to find new alternatives for combining video games with a preferred IP (reminiscent of 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 customers already know and love, reminiscent of anime titles for Japan and comedian and TV properties for the U.S.

Lastly, within the post-IFDA world, IPs can function a significant 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 top of selling at analytics firm GameRefinery by Vungle, which gives function degree analytics, market insights, and benchmarks for the cell gaming trade.


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