Tofu Girl: Helping a Japanese developer publish their… | JoyPac

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Tofu Girl: Helping a Japanese developer publish their hyper-casual game in China

Japanese studio USAYA had a hyper-casual mobile game called Tofu Girl that was already a hit in Japan. So they wanted to publish the game in China too. But despite their geographical proximity, the Japanese and Chinese gaming markets are very different.

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Tofu Girl

USAYA

About the studio

USAYA is located in Japan and specializes in making casual and hyper-casual games.

Website

USAYA had already worked with us at JoyPac on other successful projects. And they knew we had the team, insights and capabilities to navigate the tricky world of publishing games in China. So we teamed up again to give Tofu Girl a shot at more global success.

Our reason to collaborate with JoyPac can be traced back to our earlier product, Climb Radish, which has seen great results through our collaboration. Since we do not have the necessary knowledge on China’s market, we haven’t thought of going in ourselves and chose JoyPac because of their user acquisition (UA) capabilities in China, knowledge on cultural, social and policy elements as well as capital power to promote the game. Hirose Keita, Founder and Designer, Usaya

Tofu Girl was already a high-performing, quintessentially Japanese game

The game uses a hyper-casual stacking mechanic. You’re a tiny girl, standing atop a block of wobbling tofu – your mission is to time your jumps perfectly as more blocks of tofu speed in from either side, creating an ever-larger stack.

It’s a 2D game with colorful, manga-style graphics that make the overall gameplay feel smooth and natural. It was no surprise to us that Tofu Girl was already a success in Japan – with day one retention rates as high as 50%.

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But Tofu Girl needed adapting for the Chinese market

We started off by developing a prototype. We then did a UA test in China to see what parts of the game were most appealing to USAYA’s target audience.

We also made localization changes to the game. Compared to the Western-developed games we often adapt, Tofu Girl’s starting point was much closer to suiting the cultural and social aspects of the Chinese market that are essential for success.

But understanding the players and gameplay is key, so our team dug deep to find new opportunities. Even though the game had great retention in Japan, our testing showed up several ways we could improve its metrics for the Chinese launch. Our production team recommended these new features to USAYA:

  • Rocket and shield items – players get access to extra gameplay tools once they reach a high score.
  • Challenge mode – players can unlock new Tofu Girl outfits and game skins by completing enough levels.

For each new feature, we ran A/B testing to optimize every last detail and make sure they were boosting the game’s metrics in the ways we’d hoped.

We helped USAYA to launch Tofu Girl from firm legal ground

Perfecting gameplay for audiences of a different culture is only one part of the process. Even the best games can flounder in the Chinese market for legal reasons.

We helped USAYA apply for a license to publish games in China, for which you have to satisfy some very stringent criteria – mostly around the game’s social and cultural wholesomeness. We also helped them apply for a publication number, which is a totally separate process.

And then there’s the tricky issue of intellectual property (IP) law. In China, there are countless ‘copycat’ developers who’ll create and monetize almost identical versions of any successful game that doesn’t have the right trademarks, copyrights and patents in place. We made sure Tofu Girl could enter the Chinese market without being vulnerable to IP theft.

JoyPac helped us with risk mitigation and satisfying all the institutional policies. Their help in solve license issues, among others, was very much appreciated. It would have been very hard for our company to deal with it by ourselves. Hirose Keita, Founder and Designer, Usaya

Through all the challenges, Tofu Girl soon hit the Chinese app stores

So what was it like to work with JoyPac?

To answer this, we hand over to Keita-san:

During our collaboration, we really liked the proactive attitude in implementing features and running A/B tests to ensure success. JoyPac has also given us a lot of feedback for our game improvement, and it has been very helpful not only for this launch but also for further game development.
We appreciate JoyPac’s work and would like to use their UA capability more in the future. Also, we’d like to work with JoyPac from the beginning of a development cycle, learning about the most recent trends and getting a direction – that would be of great value to us. Based on the advantages of working with JoyPac, we plan to keep collaborating with the company in the future.