App Store Guidelines Add ISBN Requirement for Games in China

February 27, 2020

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Apple’s App Store Guidelines have updated with a new requirement for mobile games available in China. Starting this July, any mobile game available in mainland China will be required to have an International Standard Book Number (ISBN) or be removed from the store. Developers with apps available in China should be aware of what they must do to keep their app available and how this can affect their App Store Optimization.

App Store Guidelines

Apple’s new policy is due to Chinese law, which was recently updated to require games be approved by the State Administration of Press and Publication (SAPP). According to Apple, mobile game developers must “provide [Apple] with the approval number of any paid game or game that offers in-app purchases that [developers] plan to release in mainland China by June 30, 2020.”

An ISBN is a 13-digit numeric code that identifies a product. These are typically assigned to books, so mobile game developers do not usually get ISBNs for their games. ISBNs are not normally given to video games, so developers may need to work through some yellow tape to get one. This could take time, so starting early to meet the deadline is advised.

Developers wishing to sell their mobile games in China should begin looking into purchasing an ISBN for their app. China remains a top market for mobile games, with billions of dollars in transactions each year. As such, losing the Chinese market could have significant consequences on developers with apps available there.

What Developers Should Do

It’s important for any developer who could be impacted by this to invest in an ISBN before the 6/30 deadline. Following that, they can contact Apple with the approval number and date to ensure the app will still be available on the App Store in China.

If an app is removed, even temporarily, it could have a negative impact on its App Store Optimization. Not only will it take time for a removed app to rebuild its keyword indexation and rankings after the app is approved for distribution by Apple, but its competitors will fill the gaps the removed app left in the time it takes to be restored.

Localize Your Overseas Apps

After developers ensure their mobile game can remain available in China, they should be sure it’s optimized for the Chinese market. If an app is available overseas, it should be localized for the region; this is especially true for a large market like China. This includes researching and optimizing its keywords, creative set and description.

For instance, certain mobile game characters may appeal more to audiences in China than in the US; creative assets can be updated to emphasize those characters. Other gameplay aspects may be more appealing overseas as well, so the description and screenshots can be refocused to emphasize those.

Developers should also research keyword volume in each region they’re localizing for. Certain keywords may perform well in the United States but have little search volume in China, and vice-versa. The length of the keywords can also vary greatly – the three-character “RPG” in English may become the six-character “角色扮演游戏” in China, while “strategy” becomes the shorter “战略.” These differences can significantly change the number of keywords used in the title, subtitle and keyword bank. c

Changes like this can surprise app developers, but they can be overcome. Mobile game developers should look into getting an ISBN for their game, and take a look at how they’re optimized for the Chinese market while they’re at it.

Want more information regarding App Store Optimization? Contact Gummicube and we’ll help get your strategy started.

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