Tabikaeru is a freemium mobile game developed by the Japanese company Hit-Point. The game centers on a frog travelling around Japan and sending back snapshots or mementos of its trip. The main gameplay is that players grow and collect clover in a virtual courtyard as in-game currency to afford the frog’s journey. The game, in Japanese only, has risen to the top of the free apps in Apple’s App Store in China, Taiwan and Japan.
At the start of 2018, two mobile games have sparked great discussion and attention in China. They are not one of the Honor of Kings clones or the numerous battle royale titles, and neither of them requires highly tuned gaming skills or rapid levelling of characters to compete. Love and Producer, an otome dating game targeting towards young females is estimated to generate monthly gross revenue of RMB300 million (~$45m) from DAUs (daily active users) of 4 million. Tabikaeru, without any specific promotional campaign aimed at China, has achieved downloads of up to 10 million in Apple’s app store in China in two months’ operation.
The similarity of the two games is that social networks - namely WeChat and Weibo - play an important role in their growing popularity. Although the two games have no in-game social features to enhance user engagement, their gameplay of collecting cards enables users to show off via WeChat and Weibo. These collections push players to spend more money or time on the apps.
Both of the games attract more non-usual gamers than hard-core players that are obsessed with titles such as Honor of Kings, Wilderness or Fantasy Westward Journey. The games require little action from players and players don’t even need to completely concentrate on the game during gameplay. This has lowered the entry barrier for non-usual gamers and the random game results led by luck instead of competitive skills deliver fun for non-usual gamers.
Unlike traditional games that bring thrills through competition or leveling of characters, these two games bring another type of fun and satisfaction to a different type of gamer. Users are seeking virtual love relationship through Love and Producer, and players experience nurturing emotions through the process of taking care of the frog as their son in Taibikaeru.
It is unlikely these titles will have the lifecycle of core games that have been brought over from the PC games market, but their rapid success indicates the diversity of the China mobile games market and the appetite for broader experiences that may not even have been localised for the market. The success of these these types of games gives developers a reason to innovate and investigate new genres of games apps, which may help them stand out in the hugely competitive Asian mobile games market.