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.
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.
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%.
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:
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.
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.
So what was it like to work with JoyPac?
To answer this, we hand over to Keita-san: