Written By Chris Mills 慕乐文

Mobile Game Development in the Chinese Market – Payment Systems

March 14, 2014 | business / china / app development / gaming

I have discussed in my previous blog entry about the complications of deploying a game in the Chinese marketplace here and how fragmented the market is here. In addition to the challenges involved in app discovery, a much more complicated situation arises when it comes to collecting money from your users. Across most of the mobile world payment systems are pretty simple. With an iOS App Store and Google Play your payment is attached directly with the store itself. In China it is very different, and the payment systems are linked with the major mobile carriers, China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom. When a user makes a purchase it is always within the game. Paid apps do not exist because there is no way to police the app from being pirated to other stores. A payment that is made through one of the three main carriers is what we refer to as Carrier Billing. With Carrier Billing the purchase will be deducted from the user’s cell phone bill immediately via SMS communication.


The user will be prompted in the game based on which carrier their SIM card is tied to. Each carrier has their own customized SDK to accept payments. Since your app can be downloaded from many different places all SDKs have to be integrated into the game. Programming logic is then added to detect which carrier the phone is on and load up the appropriate SDK.

When the user makes a purchase a private SMS is sent to the carrier being used, which then verifies funds and charges the user’s account. Afterwards an SMS message is sent back to the phone showing if the payment was successful or not. Because this communication is done over the SMS network a user does not have to have internet access to make a purchase online, they only need cell service. There are a few limitations to this process. If the user doesn’t have cell service but is on a WiFi connection they cannot pay since the phone doesn’t have access to the carrier network. Additionally, if the user has a tablet that doesn’t have a SIM card, the system doesn’t know what to do and the user cannot pay. Another challenge with integrating the SDKs is most of the SDK and support documentation is in Mandarin.

There are two other large payment systems in China, Alipay and Tencent. Alipay is the Chinese version of PayPal. Users can setup an account that is linked to their personal bank account to make purchases. There are a few drawbacks to this process. First, the user must have internet connection and secondly, the process for paying with these systems is more complicated because the user must login and go through several steps to make a purchase.

The above are just some of the challenges a developer will face when collecting payments in China. If you want to learn more please contact us here.

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