How To Make Money In China From Free Mobile Games

By Todd KuhnsLast Updated on Jul 29, 2020
How To Make Money In China From Free Mobile Games

In just a couple days, thousands of iOS games will be removed from the Apple App Store China, according to an email sent by Apple to developers. These games are currently paid and/or have in-app purchases, but do not possess a game license as required by Chinese law.

While we’ve been reporting on this development since the first announcement in February, if you have an iOS game currently making money in China and have been blindsided, you still have options:

  • First of all, in order to continue following your current business model, you will want to contact a Chinese partner to help you acquire that precious game license approval number. But don’t waste any time, as China’s National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) only grants a limited number of game licenses each year, and the process can take 6 months to a year to complete.
  • In the meantime, to keep your iOS game up and maintain your user base in China, you will need to change your game’s price to “free” and strip out any in-app purchases. Keep in mind this will obviously affect your game worldwide, so it may be untenable for you.
  • Another alternative is to create a separate version of your game for China that is free and upload this to the Apple App Store for the China region only. If possible, you can notify your current users that this new game will be available, and to look out for it soon.

Once my free version for China is up and running, how can I make money from my free game?

Incredibly, although government regulations clearly state that ALL games in China must receive a game license approval, the current reality is that this requirement is only enforced against paid games and games with in-app purchases. Free and ad-supported games are currently exempt from the game license approval requirement.

You can take advantage of this fact as long as it lasts by converting your free game to an ad-supported model, if even only for your China version.

  • For iOS games, you can choose any ad network you wish, as the Apple App Store has no requirements or restrictions
  • For Android games, most Chinese Android app stores require you to incorporate their own ad SDKs, and they will take a 40-50% cut of the ad revenue for a free game.
  • However, there are a few popular Chinese Android app stores and games stores that give you the freedom to choose a third-party ad SDK for your Android game:


Keep in mind that, if you choose to go with a Chinese ad network, you will need to be a Chinese company or have a Chinese entity to create an account with them.

Otherwise, you can choose an available ad provider with an office outside of China that can provide localized ads for the Chinese market. Remember, not all ad networks work in China.

We recommend:

  • Pangle is currently one of the most popular ad networks used by mobile apps and games in China. With a strong focus on rewarded video ads, it can also run static and video interstitials, full-screen video stream ads, banner ads, and splash ads. In our observations, Pangle seems to localize the ads to the Chinese users better than some of the other services.
  • AdMob is one of the largest mobile ad networks, owned by Google since 2009, with more than 200 billion ad requests per month and over 1 million advertisers. Admob can run banner ads, video ads, interstitial ads, rewarded ads, and native ads. Although most Google services are not available on Mainland China, to date Admob works well with no major issues.
  • Yeahmobi is headquartered in China, but also has offices in the USA, Japan, and Korea. It focuses on e-commerce apps and has services such as a retargeting program (Yeah Targeter), that gets users to re-engage with their mobile shopping cart. Yeahmobi can run video ads, dynamic interstitial, banner ads, and app walls.

For more information about the process of adding an ad network SDK to your game in China (iOS or otherwise), please see our article below.

Link: How to monetize your game with ads in China

AppInChina is here to help

As always, if you are looking for a partner to publish your game in China, contact us as soon as possible and we can put you on the road to success – and that precious game license approval number.