SHOWDOWN: 4 Reasons Why Cooking Fever Dominates in Chinese Market

Originally I wanted to write a piece on the feature comparison between Cooking Fever (CF) and Cooking Dash 2016 (CD). After playing with App Annie’s data and further research, I found it’s far more interesting to look into why Cooking Fever is doing so much better in China.

CF is a restaurant time-management game on mobile. It maintained in the top 10 downloads in the strategy game category on Apple App Store in the US over last year. The following game of the same theme is CD. CD’s download ranked among 10 to 40 in the strategy game category. The similarity between the two games makes them good case studies. If you want a breakdown of Cooking Fever, here is an excellent post by Philipp Zupke. And if you want a brief overview of Cooking Dash 2016, I wrote a post here.

Having played 60+ level for both games, I believe CD delivers finer visual polishment and clear goals and progression with daily challenges system. I like in CF there is no energy system, yet I feel more confident to start a new level in CD because I’m more likely to get through the level. Both games follow the similar core gameplay and level structure; it’s hard to say which game is better.

Clear Differences in Grossing and Downloads

For many countries, CF and CD share similar growth pattern but has huge differences in China. I gathered the performance of both games on App Annie. Looking into both game’s grossing data, CF and CD are doing similarly in the US with fairly regular ups and downs. It gets interesting after July 2016, the grossing of CF spiked in China while CD did not catch on the velocity.

(Grossing data: Cooking Fever on the left and Cooking Dash 2016 on the right)

The download data added details to the story. The spike in the grossing of CF after July could correspond to the huge increase in the downloads after July 15th. And the developers of CD, Glu Mobile put in the effort with player acquisition evident in the peak around Augst 30th. The effort didn’t translate into more downloads afterward. It seems understanding the spike of CF in July 2016 is the hint of understanding why CF is doing so well in China.

download_comparison(Download data: Cooking Fever on the left and Cooking Dash 2016 on the right)

Reasons Cooking Fever Dominates the Chinese Market

1) Featuring

CF is featured on a collection called 恋上厨房(In Love with the Kitchen) on the number six spot on App Store since July 15th. Timeline wise fits perfectly with the spike in downloads. While most often the featuring doesn’t translate into long-term downloads, 恋上厨房 as a collection is proven to attract massive Chinese audience each day. It speaks to the popularity of the cooking themed games in China. On the other hand, CD was not highly featured in many major Asian countries. And I will get into the reasons later.

(Cooking Fever was featured in “In Love With the Kitchen,” the cooking game category in China)

2) Internet Fan Following

Featuring alone does not explain the success of CF. I did a quick search for both CD and CF. And a Baidu fan site for CF catches my eyes. The Baidu site has 2k followings and ~8k postings to date. It’s nothing compared to other popular fan sites in China. However, the fact that Chinese players talk about mobile games online is amazing. From my experience in the US, people don’t talk about mobile games, unless it’s a national phenomenon like Pokemon Go. Reading through the titles of the posting, people use the site to help each other to understand mechanics in the game. Having an online community makes CF more than just a single player experience. And you can guess, CD doesn’t have any fan base on the internet in China.

fanclub(Title: Cooking Fever Fan Club)

3) Translated Title

In China, Cooking Fever is known as 烹饪发烧友 (The direct translation is “Devoted Fans of Cooking” ). It sounds hip. I believe a Chinese title brings the game much close to the Chinese audiences. While Cooking Fever is easy to understand, 烹饪发烧友 as a title prevented any risk that the player does not understand English. Again, you can guess it; CD keeps its English title in China. And you wonder why CD does not have a fan following in China.

4) Piracy

This one may be harder to pick up for the westerner. Growing up in China I know too well how a game can go viral if people pirated it. From an anecdotal online source, CF has a hacked version sold somewhere in China. In fact, some fan discussion referred to this version. The low cost pirated version helped the game to spread faster (Take notes western developers, jk). Luckily for CF, the paying players are still a good portion of the players. At the same time, piracy is not a dominate factor in the success of CF. If the game is not fun and does not have any popularity, it would not attract piracy either.

In short

In the example of Cooking Fever, having an App store featuring with top rank in China is huge. And for many western developers, understanding the Chinese internet culture and having the right localization will be a must. As usual feel free to give me comments and feedback to my email: