The Chinese Martial Arts Game Ace IP Swordsman Love: Mor

Text: Zelinsky

Looking at the field of Chinese martial arts games, there have been countless classic works that have left a deep impression on the market and the industry. However, if we consider the player reputation, commercial revenue and industry influence, the ace IP "Swordsman Love" can be said to be the undisputed leader. Since the first generation of works were launched in 1997, until now, it continues to shine on the mobile terminal. This golden sign has gone through more than 20 years. During this period, "Swordsman Love: Legend of Moon Shadow" was once sold to Japan by agents, and Jian Wang III also landed in the Korean market.

In 2017, Kingsoft Games renamed the "Swordsman Love Mobile Game" to "CLANS: Shadow of the Moon" and released it in the Korean market independently, winning the first place in both Korean charts, once again spreading the influence of this classic IP to overseas regions. South Korea is a well-known MMO and RPG online game powerhouse, and its users have an unusual love for local brands. It is not easy for a foreign product to achieve such a good result based on the field that Korean local manufacturers are extremely good at.

Zhao Haoyang, Director of Overseas Operations at Jinshan Shiyou

So, what specific work did Kingsoft World Games do when it released and promoted "Swordsman Love Mobile" in South Korea? From "Swordsman Love Mobile" to "CLANS: Shadow of the Moon", what kind of localization process did this product go through? As a major online game country, what are the characteristics of the Korean market? The white paper interviewed Zhao Haoyang, director of overseas operations at Kingsoft World Games, hoping to provide some answers and help to practitioners.

The following is the transcript of the interview.

CIS: Swordsman Love is a very valuable IP, and products under this IP have been exported to Japan and South Korea. So when promoting "CLANS: Shadow of the Moon", is the strategy different from promoting a product without an IP?

Zhao Haoyang: In fact, the main influence of the IP "Swordsman Love" is still in China. When we launched this product, the packaging was still based on the "martial arts" category, and we promoted it from the perspective of "a very successful martial arts game in China." South Korea has some very localized characteristics and a very mature game culture. Their users are more familiar with domestic IPs or some Japanese two-dimensional IPs.

CIS: In other words, the Korean market is actually very similar to the Japanese market in the past, with a very strong exclusivity?

Zhao Haoyang: First of all, the quality of Korean game products is good enough, and Korean users have a strong sense of nationality, so they naturally prefer their local games. However, with the entry of more and more non-Korean products and the emergence of more and more high-quality games, the status of Korean players is gradually changing, and it is actually much better now.

CIS: In the past, there was a saying that South Korea’s business model was 2-3 years ahead of ours. Is this statement no longer true now?

Zhao Haoyang: The overall division of labor in the Korean game industry is relatively detailed. Everyone has their own clear positioning and profession, and they are very in-depth in their own fields. In addition, Korean game development is relatively strict, and the requirements for works are also very high, so the average level of works appearing on the market is very high, and there are many excellent works. However, in the past two years, more and more Chinese products have been exported to Korea, and have also been recognized by Korean counterparts, so they are also seeking more cooperation. For example, the IP of Miracle was actually handed over to China.

The so-called 2-3 years ahead, we understand that it means that local users have mature payment habits and game concepts, and the feeling when playing games is similar to the average level of first-tier cities in China. When it comes to publicity and promotion and commercialization, Chinese companies are actually leading the world.

CIS: You just mentioned the local sentiment of Korean users. So how is a Chinese martial arts IP like "Swordsman Love" localized to suit the habits of Korean users during the overseas expansion process?

Zhao Haoyang: The foundation is two parts, one is from the perspective of market promotion, and the other is from the perspective of product. From the product perspective, China and South Korea have many similarities in history, so Korean users actually know a lot of things. The main thing is to make some adjustments to the details. For example, the story of "Swordsman Love" is about the confrontation between Song and Jin in Beijing, but when it is placed in South Korea, it is changed to a story that happened during the Goryeo period of Korea. In addition, we added a national hero of Korea, Yi Sun-sin, who is a household name. In addition to text translation, there are some aesthetic differences. For example, we reset the original paintings of the eight major sects in the game according to the aesthetics of Korean users, and used 3D modeling to create a main visual of Gyeongbokgung Palace in Seoul. All promotional materials use this, so that users will naturally think of our game after seeing it.

CIS: What you just said, we understand it as a promotion strategy from the perspective of publicity and promotion or is it more towards PC games?

Zhao Haoyang: It is more of a PC game. In fact, the main overseas strategies are in two directions. For example, Europe, America and Southeast Asia are more of an online pure launch. For regions like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, the strategy is similar to that of domestic PC games. You can’t just do online launches, because users have their own judgments about games. They know what kind of games they want, so they will try them and read some media content. In addition, in densely populated countries like South Korea, including China’s Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, offline marketing will have better results. Product promotion in densely populated areas has higher exposure and cost-effectiveness. The methods are mostly traditional, such as installing subway screen doors and partial advertising on the loop line with the largest traffic in South Korea, and later doing some player gatherings.

CIS: What about spokespersons?

Zhao Haoyang: Actually, we didn’t hire a spokesperson. The Hong Jin Young that everyone saw sang the OST for our game, but her driving effect is very large. For example, when she released the game OST, many Internet celebrities spontaneously forwarded it. When she attended events in colleges and universities, the audience would also ask her to sing the theme song of our game. In other words, her effect really promoted the promotion of the game. Speaking of this, I would like to add a little bit about localization. We also specially remade a Korean version of the lyrics for the theme song of the game and asked Hong Jin Young to sing it, because "Swordsman Love" itself is a thing with a story and feelings. We want to convey this feeling to Korean users through the theme song, so we specially localized the lyrics.

CIS: What was the reason for inviting Hong Jin-young? Because "Swordsman Love" has always been loved by many female players, but Hong Jin-young is actually a beautiful and sexy image that can impress straight men.

Zhao Haoyang: Hong Jin-young's image is beautiful and sexy, so she is very popular among uncles. Her songs are catchy and have a sense of divine songs, so her fans are more in line with the core heavy users of our game. Regarding the issue of female players, in fact, everyone may have some misunderstandings about social networking. Sometimes the game may attract female players with the theme or gameplay content, and then retain male users through female players, but the distribution of a single game is definitely dominated by male users. South Korea also follows this rule. The "Jianxia" product itself is a very mature system. In this system, users are actually very mature and sticky. In addition, Korean female users are more likely to choose bigo diamond buy , which is relatively simple and light in gameplay. Unlike our country, there are even special female-oriented games. In addition, there are indeed not many female users in South Korea, so we still focus on the angle of martial arts to promote it, but some things in the game may be more in line with the preferences of female users.

CIS: So including Hong Jin Young and the offline advertising we just mentioned, how do we evaluate the effectiveness of this promotion based on data?

Zhao Haoyang: It is difficult to explain it directly based on the data. We can only say that when there are topics related to Hong Jin Young or when the OST is released, the download curve of the game does increase. As for brand advertising, it is more difficult to evaluate. Usually we unify the release points to one day and then look at the effect from the side.

CIS: So based on these measures, what is the approximate cost for one of our users in South Korea?

Zhao Haoyang: In 2017, the download price was about 5 USD, which was relatively cheap. Now it has soared to the point where it is hard to look straight. In the MMO category, it may be more than 10 USD, 20 USD, or even more than 30 USD. This is actually ruined by the domestic wash-volume gameplay, such as the rolling server and pure purchase of volume. Because many products actually have very advanced payment, the ROI can be calculated in a week, so they dare to increase the CPA to 30, but a long-term game cannot do this. Some of South Korea’s previous market behaviors were biased towards product promotion, and there was not much investment in advertising. This market pays great attention to brand promotion, so the advertising cost was low in the past few years, and the competition was not so fierce. Now it feels like entering a mature market. After fierce competition, your annual revenue may only increase by 4%, but the advertising cost can increase by 30%-50% a year.

CIS: In terms of the marketing plan, how much money have we prepared before the release of this game?


Zhao Haoyang: It’s about 2 million US dollars. Today, it’s definitely much higher than it was then. In fact, the Korean market can show your strength not by how low you can reduce costs, but by how much money you can spend in the first month, because many times you can’t spend any money in the first month. So when we make a budget, we consider two aspects: one is whether we can make it back, and the other is whether we can spend it—how to spend it and what methods to use. So the overall budget is added up little by little, not how much money must be spent overall. The launch in overseas markets is generally phased. Take an expected budget, look at the effect and benefits, and continue to add if it’s good. Including many large Korean companies, it may spend tens of millions of US dollars in the entire cycle, but the cost of a major work in one phase is only 5 million to 6 million US dollars.

CIS: Are there any promotion channels in South Korea with strong local characteristics?

Zhao Haoyang: Yes, there are. For example, the two local vertical game media must be purchased. Their news, general background and general game promotion must be fully covered. They are similar to the domestic game media such as 17173 or Duowan.

CIS: Looking back now, what experiences from the process of expanding to South Korea can be shared with those who come after you?

Zhao Haoyang: Actually, there are many. First, in terms of translation during localization, we must see whether the translators have creative abilities and whether they have professional division of labor. For example, "Swordsman" is a martial arts game that involves a lot of ancient Chinese poetry, which cannot be translated directly. Therefore, the translators need to have a certain literary literacy to restore this artistic conception, mainly in terms of background stories or poetry. Although it seems that there is no actual benefit, it gives users a different feeling.

Another thing is that in terms of operation, you cannot do recharge activities according to the Chinese way of thinking. This may have been encountered by companies that have gone overseas to South Korea. For example, users are still not satisfied with the 120% recharge rebate. In fact, many overseas users, including South Korea, are more accepting of gift packages. If you do recharge rebates, users will think you are cheating. Local Korean companies use special offers, limited time or rare props gift packages to do these, including COK, but the packaging is different. It's the same in Europe and the United States. For example, on Black Friday, local shopping malls directly offer discounts, such as 20% and 30% off on Black Friday. If you make the rules too complicated, the cost for users to understand will be too high, and they will think you are cheating. Korean and other overseas users are not very accepting of China's operation method.

CIS: So in terms of service for big customers, is there any difference in Korea? Maybe it is similar to the one-to-one service we provide to big customers here?

Zhao Haoyang: We have considered this, but Korean users are more sensitive to privacy. Their habit is that I will contact you when I have something to do, but you should not contact me when I am free. Whether they are active or their payment is declining, it is difficult for you to really intervene. Their users have their own judgments and ideas. There are many new games on the market, and they will always jump to other games. All manufacturers can do is to recall users, such as through some social activities or by placing some advertisements for new versions and new content in the market to recall users, but the effect is also hard to say.

CIS: If we expand overseas again today, does the MMO genre still have a chance? Because actually there are very few MMOs going overseas now.

Zhao Haoyang: There are some objective factors limiting this. The threshold of RPG games is getting higher and higher, and the cost is also rising. This requires us to make a profit. It is very difficult. Then you find that it is difficult to do MMO in other places except Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan. MMO is a category with high ARPU and low retention. This determines that you can only look for regions with both high payment and a certain user base. You need users with strong payment ability and a large user base. Looking at the world, only these regions can do it. Or change it to an idle type to lower the cost, or do deep localization in a certain area. Just looking at the MMO category, it is very difficult to do it now.


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