Last week, WeChat announced a number of new incentives to encourage innovative mini-program game developers. Under the scheme, developers who apply for and receive the title of “creative game” for their game will be allowed to take a bigger cut of both in-game purchases and advertisement earnings, as well as other perks.
The change was announced amid a general cool-down of China’s gaming industry, which has hit WeChat’s parent company Tencent especially hard. Claiming that too much gaming is bad for kids’ eyesight – which research shows may be true, if only indirectly – in March China’s government stopped approving new games. In more recent months the State Administration of Press, Publication, Radio, Film, and Television has also vowed to limit the amount of time youth can spend on online games.
But despite a drop in earnings, WeChat appears to be pushing through with their mini-program initiative. Applications for original, “creative” games will be assessed by their mechanics, art, storyline, and music. The chosen games will receive a label, initial users to get their programs rolling, and a specialized team to investigate copycat complaints.
Creative game-makers that earn over RMB 500,000 of in-game purchases per month will receive 70% of that income, 10% more than their counterparts. Likewise, creative developers who receive less than RMB 1 million in daily ad revenue will receive 70% of that money, 20% more than normal developers. That puts “creative” WeChat mini-games on par with games in Apple’s App Store or Google Play.
While the move could potentially be a boon for Chinese game-makers, indie developer Liu Yuchen told ifanr that publicity would be more helpful than a higher cut of profits for small and medium-sized organizations. In addition, it would only be partially helpful for some: “individual developers have no way to make in-game purchasing tools.”
It also remains to be seen how widely WeChat will distribute the “creative game” label, and whether it’ll be enough to make a significant impact among developers of original games.
In the end, however, game developers of any size may not have too many other options. At the World Internet Conference in Wuzhen last weekend, Tencent CEO and founder Pony Ma revealed that WeChat’s mini-programs have 200 million daily active users and 1 million total programs, nearly half the number of apps on the App Store.
As a developer calling himself “Lao Qi” told ifanr, while indie game developers may not like the proportion of income that WeChat receives from their mini-programs, they may still consider the platform their best option to capture an audience.