With over 2,000 games, over 310 million monthly active users, and over 1 billion total registered users, WeChat mini-games have greatly influenced China’s gaming market. Mini-games do not require download or installation. After players exit the games, there’s no need to uninstall the application if players don’t feel like to keep it on the device. It crosses the boundaries of time, space, geography and dimensions. We are entering the “Mini-game era” of gaming and advertising.
What is unique about mini-game players, is that compared to the general population of gamers, mini-game players are, on average, much older and include more women. 69% of the players are over 30 years old, and half of players do not play any native app games, meaning they just play mini-games. And, there are as many female players as male. WeChat mini-games are truly a way to reach a wider audience, but what do brands need to know about mini-games before diving in?
Download our reports on WeChat mini-programs and WeChat mini-games
What your brand should know about WeChat mini-games
Source: Quest Mobile, daxue consulting mini-programs official report, the top 10 WeChat mini-games as of June 2019
In 2019, mobile games contributed 69% of China’s video game market. Among the 1 billion registered users, the monthly active users have reached 310 million, more than 50% of the users only play mini-games and do not play native app games. According to official WeChat data and the data from other authoritative sources, mini-games reach a wider audience than native app games.
“Mini-games is a way to play/try a game without having to download it or purchase it. In that regard, it is essential to consider all the social aspects of the game, leveraging the WeChat ecosystem as much as possible such as sharing, template messages, daily lucky draw, daily leaderboard, multiplayer or invite friends the game.”Clement Ledormeur, General Manager of 31 Ten
The essence of a WeChat mini-game, lightweight gaming
Due to the size of the WeChat mini-game’s package (Including all the code and resources, the package cannot exceed 4MB.), additional resources must be downloaded through the network. But take into account that they will have to be fetched every time the game is started, games should be rather light in terms of assets, and 3D games should use low-poly 3D objects and low-quality textures.
Source: cocos.gitbooks, daxue consulting WeChat mini-programs official report ,3D WeChat mini-games should use low polygons
Mini-games have several strong advantages, such as simple instructions, wide user reach, low threshold, diverse carriers and strong social interaction. Based on these advantages WeChat Mini-games can better match the user attributes and promotion of its social platform.
Source: 31Ten, daxue consulting WeChat mini-programs official report,In “Pirates are coming”(海盗来了), users can add friends from WeChat contacts and ask WeChat friends to help get energy
How WeChat mini-games create profit for brands
There are two key-ways to monetize mini-games, in app purchases and advertising.
In App purchase (IAP)
IAP is the direct way to create revenue. Currently, it’s only open to Android users, since iOS doesn’t support it due to the restrictions from Apple. To be able to do IAP in Mini-games, the company needs to apply for Game License from the government. If a Mini-game is owned by an individual instead of a company, it cannot have access to IAPs.
Source: 31Ten, In App purchase pay with Debit card, Wechat pay, QQ wallet and Alipay
Advertising (banners & rewarded videos)
Advertising is the major and easiest way of monetizing for mini-game owners who do not have a game license or business license, but Tencent will take cut of the revenue. WeChat mini-games even offer players rewards for watching ads. In exchange for watching a video ad, players can receive extra coins or extra lives. Additionally, the ads interact with players instead of displaying ads bluntly like banner or pop-up ads.
Source: 31Ten, daxue consulting WeChat mini-programs official report, users watch the videos to get rewards
According to WeChat official data, mini-games have had an 80% increase of traffic from ads year on year in July 2020. Up to 39 Mini-games have made over 1 million RMB in ad revenue.
How WeChat mini-games can be leveraged to remote brands
Commercial ads on mini games
Ads on Tiao Yi Tiao are allegedly priced at 5 million RMB a day or 20 million RMB for five days. McDonald’s and Nike were some of the first brands to place ads. When users land on the branded boxes, they get extra rewards. French fries pop out of the McDonald’s box after landing.
The event drew the attention of media and even the News, which was a level-up for brand awareness. However, such partnerships with Tencent are only achievable through bidding, and only big brands have such a budget.
Source: daxue consulting, WeChat mini-programs official report, Nike & McDonald advertise by placing a branded box on the game Tiao Yi Tiao (跳一跳). The ads reached 28 million active users a day.
Build Mini-games to advertise
Brands can build mini-games to advertise at a lower cost than most of other Tencent formats advertising.
For example, Dior built a mini-game to engage customers. The mini-game draws players attention to the exquisite details of Dior’s luxury products. It also envelops the user’s attention in a luxurious scene which is connected with Dior.
Source: daxue consulting WeChat mini-programs official report, Dior uses Mini-games to engage with consumers
Because production time and cost are high, brands might find more value by either building an H5 game instead, which takes less production time and cost or advertising on an existing mini-game.
Comparison between WeChat Mini-games & H5 games
Brands often question whether it is better to build H5 game or a WeChat Mini-game?
#1 Entry point
Since H5 is a web page, the main shell is the browser. Therefore, as long as there is a browser, it can successfully run the H5. e.g. mobile built-in browser (safari, google chrome) and the web-view component in apps or mini-apps.
Mini-games can only operate in WeChat. If your products need to notify the user to bring the access address via SMS, it cannot be achieved with Mini-games. On the contrary, the H5 page can be opened directly in text messages with the built-in browsers of the mobile phones.
#2 Acquisition costs
For simple functions, the acquisition cost of H5 and Mini-games are equally low. The development model and language style of them two is similar as well.
#3 Open/Activation rate
H5 itself has low user reach-ability. Fortunately, nowadays we have WeChat service accounts which to push the H5 links via template messages.
Mini-games is capable of collecting form ID as long as the users enter the Mini-game. Then, you can easily reach the users at any time within a week.
Consider the gaming experience, Mini-games are ideal for game publishers who monetize through ads and In-app purchase, H5 is ideal for brands.
Wechat Mini-game case studies
Tiao Yi Tiao (跳一跳)-Viral mini-game within the WeChat community
Tiao Yi Tiao was launched in December 2017.
Users simply press the screen to move a hopping black figure from one platform to another, collecting points for each successful jump.
Source: Tiao Yi Tiao, the game tracks performance and ranking among all WeChat friends to encourage competition.
Source: Tiao Yi Tiao, Score and ranking position
To commercialize, Tiao Yi Tiao allows brands to advertise by having branded boxes.
Source: Tiao yi Tiao , commercialized by decorated boxes
In addition to brand advertisement, figure’s skins are also an effective marketing tool for mini-games. Besides the basic one, there are superior skins that can be redeemed with game points.
Source: Tiao Yi Tiao, Game figure skins interface
In January 2018, Tiao Yi Tiao’s daily active users reached to 170 million and 390 million players on total in March 2018. The maximum number of players online simultaneously was 28 million during Chinese New Year festival.
Pirates are Coming (海盗来了)-The most eye-catching WeChat mini-game
Pirates are Coming was launched in April 2018. The game relies on social fission, focusing on getting acquaintances from existing players to join.
Source: daxue consulting WeChat mini-programs official report, game interface of Pirates are Coming
Social player, interaction, and gameplay are the three most important arms of the game. It provides various ways to compete engage with friends, including leaderboard, pirate union, game friends, and the world chat channel.
The popularity of this game heavily relies on its social factor, players can chat, exchange items with friends, help each other to compete missions, or even fight against each other.
The game frequently updates, with 10+ new version a week, which keeps boosting user activation and reaction.
“Pirates are coming” reached over 100 million users nowadays. And the peak daily active users record reached an astonishing 20 million.
The future of WeChat Mini-games
There is still couple of existing problems such as the serious game homogeneity and low user payment rate. Regarding the future development of the Mini-game industry, analysts say that the loyalty of medium to heavy game users is high, the conversion rate is fast, and the features of WeChat Mini-games such as click-to-play and strong social interaction are favorable for players to use more during their fragmentation time.
Coupled with the successful test of the moba games in China, mini-game represented by the “Glory of the Kings” (王者荣耀), this will inspire more moderate to heavy games from the client and mobile terminals to the portable mini-game platform in the future.