How a Chinese Anime Game Conquered the South Korean Market

Chinese games are taking the South Korean market by storm. Figure Story (rebranded as MINIUS in Korean) achieved No.1 on both Google Play and the App Store Free Chart in several recent weeks, and its success has not been the only case. Chinese anime games have found a way to break through the highly saturated mobile MMO market in South Korea, and we believe this recent success deserves a further look. 

Dispite topping charts, Figure Story is the only anime game on this ranking list.

 A Game for the Figure Enthusiasts  

Figure Story is a game based on model figures and garage kits, a popular theme of the anime community. In this game, players can collect and interact with figures that are ‘alive’. 

Players can examine the figures in detail

The gameplay is a mix of idle mechanics and turn-based combat, but the training system of Figure Story is carefully designed and heavily references the experience of an actual figure collector. Players can collect tools to clean and modify figures daily, and the game allows players to build their personalized figure cabinets and fully customize their collections interface.

To make things even more exciting for the figure enthusiasts, the relationships of fictional figure manufacturers are somewhat based on that of the real world and reflected in the background story of every in-game character/figure.

Smart localization strategies

It is easier for an anime game to succeed in Japan or China, where it is the most popular subculture for the younger generation. However, anime communities in South Korea have always been 'siloed' – various groups scattered in their niche circles, rarely identifying themselves as anime fans. 

Figure Story's publisher Bilibili decided to target a wider audience with some localized marketing, first by rebranding the game to <MINIUS-Adventure of the Mini Earth>, resonating a family-friendly 'Toy Story' vibe. Bilibili believed that players would be intrigued by the idea of playful toys turning alive, even if they are not familiar with anime culture. 

The first promotional video also featured the living figures exploring Seoul's most iconic site, Bukchon Hanok Village, to strengthen a sense of familiarity.

 The campaign further emphasized the concept of seeing the world from a toy’s perspective. Bilibili actually invited hit webtoon creators to illustrate a series of adventures stories of the living figures in South Korea.

 Animated webtoon, similar to Tekaki (手書き) in Japanese culture, is a popular art form that has gained much recognition from the South Korean public. 

These animators shaped the gaming adventures in creative ways with their personal touch, and some scenes were an instant hit, becoming popular memes for their touching expressions. 

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Bilibili also collaborated with influential cosplayers to play out the 'Mini Earth' themed adventures. Many cosplayers used visual effects to illustrate the differences in size between the characters and the reality, emphasizing the game's unique concept.

The high quality of these photoshoots ignited the discussion. The MINIUS cosplay was featured on the front page of NAVER multiple times. Comments were filled with curious viewers asking who these characters are and where they are from. 

The Promising Future of Chinese Anime Games

The pre-launch promotion of Figure Story in South Korea turned out to be a huge success, with more than 1 million players pre-registering for the game.

Streamer cosplaying as the main character of the game

On the day of launch, the game reached the top of the Free Chart in the App Store. Local gaming media soon put news of Figure Story on their front banners while celebrity streamers eagerly live-streamed the gameplay. Fan art created by well-known artists surfaced quickly after. 

The successful South Korean campaign showed the importance of localized promotions. Final Gear, another Chinese anime game operated by Bilibili, was first dismissed by South Korea's local operators due to its niche anime style. Bilibili managed to localize the game and made it into third place on the Google Play Grossing Chart, achieving record-breaking performance as a Chinese game in the South Korean market. 

Figure Story marked an interesting case of how Chinese anime games are starting to win over the international market. While anime was a concept many associates with Japanese culture, the Chinese game developers are taking over the genre in revenue and title numbers. At the same time, Chinese publisher seems to know how to sell anime games to the global market better. Even South Korean developers are rethinking the genre, creating anime games that look very similar to their Chinese competitors.

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