So many Chinese smartphone game makers are coming to the Tokyo Game Show that organizers scrambled to find more floor space for them.
The creators of Smart Jojo, The AirBender and Attack! Three Kingdoms are among those attending this week’s show to meet Japanese publishers, attract talent and promote their titles in the world’s biggest mobile games market. There will be record attendance this year with 473 vendors, including more than half from abroad, as of Sept. 1, according to organizers.
Chinese publishers are using surging games growth on platforms operated by Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Baidu Inc. to fund their overseas expansions. Mobile games revenue in China will grow 36 percent to about $6.5 billion in China, overtaking the U.S. and narrowing the gap with leader Japan.
“If you are a big Chinese company, if you are a little interested in the Japanese market, you have to be at the Tokyo Game Show,” said Serkan Toto, founder of Tokyo-based consultant Kantan Games Inc. “Chinese makers want to sell content to Japanese users. It is still like a treasure chest.”
Some of the most popular Japanese publishers -- including Sony Corp., Gree Inc. and GungHo Online Entertainment Inc. -- also are using the Sept. 17-20 convention to showcase games such as Shometsu Toshi and Puzzle & Dragons for China-based distributors.
China, which surpassed Japan as the second-biggest economy in 2009, is playing catchup in the video game industry. A 14-year ban on selling consoles from Sony, Microsoft Corp. and Nintendo Co. was only lifted by the government last year.
That means Chinese players are more attuned to using their smartphones for entertainment. China had 594 million mobile Internet users at the end of June, according to the China Internet Network Information Center.
China’s online game market is projected to expand to 176 billion yuan ($28 billion) by 2017 from 133 billion yuan this year, according to IResearch, a Shanghai-based Internet consultant.
A unique characteristic for China is the presence of six platforms for publishing games, compared with the typical two -- run by Google Inc. and Apple Inc. -- in most countries, said Bertrand Schmitt, chief executive officer of App Annie, an online service that tracks the performance of apps globally.
One of the first-time attendees is Tinman Arts Inc., the maker of Smart Jojo, a yellow chick-shaped toy that interacts with smartphones and can play music, audiobooks and voice messages. The Chengdu-based company is backed by an investment from Legend Star, affiliated with Legend Holdings Corp.
“Japan is known for good hardware and product ideas,” said Wen Qin, marketing manager for Tinman. “We would like to get ideas for developing apps and making our products competitive in the global market.”
The company has published more than 40 smartphone applications in China and said it has more than 13 million users, with about 10 percent of them outside China. Tinman is already negotiating with a Japanese publisher about selling apps in the country, Wen said.
KongZhong Corp., which distributes smartphone and computer games including Guild Wars 2 and World of Warplanes, came to the Tokyo show for the first time last year with a big footprint, occupying the largest booth for an overseas Asia participant.
“This year we are renting the same size again,” said Yang Bin, chief executive officer of the company’s Japan subsidiary. “TGS offered us great exposure to local game makers, and has led to more than 100 connections with IP holders and developers.”
KongZhong, which is listed on Nasdaq, initially opened a Japan office in June 2014. The Beijing-based company is preparing to release a Romance of the Three Kingdoms-inspired smartphone strategy game in Japan within four months. Mobile game revenue in Japan is 820 billion yen ($6.8 billion), according to Tokyo-based researcher CyberAgent Inc.
Perfect World Co., a Beijing-based publisher, will highlight three smartphone games at the Tokyo show, said Zhang Yunfan, chief operating officer. The company, which went private this year, also offered a game for the China launch of Microsoft’s Xbox One.
“We want to understand more about the Japanese market and about family entertainment,” Zhang said. “This is one of the biggest game shows in the world, and we are taking this opportunity very seriously.”