What applications, games and online stores do the Chinese use

Published on October 27, 2016

What applications, games and online stores do the Chinese use

Original author: Junxue Li
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I recently read a note on CNN news about what apps teens use in the US. She seemed extremely curious to me. I think I will satisfy the interest of foreigners by talking about the applications and games that the Chinese use.

In China, users in the application ecosystem are divided mainly by geographic and age groups. In this article I’ll talk only about applications for the age group “from 20 to 50” from cities of the first and second categories. In such cities, the standard of living is close to the standards of developed countries.

In this article, I will introduce you only to applications installed in 8 out of 10 phones. In order not to waste time explaining, such applications will be marked with a gold frame. This means that such applications are super-popular and can be found in almost every phone.

A pink frame will indicate a similar non-Chinese application not used in China.

Instant messengers

Both WeChat (微 信) and QQ have been released by mobile giant Tencent. WeChat is close in function to WhatsApp. But this is a huge application with many extensions: it has social network features called “Circle of Friends” (朋友 圈), which is very similar to Facebook. China has many social networks, photo-sharing platforms, and microblogging, but all of them have become almost inactive after the spread of WeChat.

Another serious feature of WeChat is the built-in electronic wallet, which can be used on a “touch-pay” basis in most retail stores, as well as make online purchases and in-app purchases. Recently, Tencent has aggressively advertised the WeChat wallet, providing subsidies to both the store and customers with every purchase.

From the example of WeChat and other applications, which I will discuss below, you will understand that Chinese applications are striving for an all-in-one approach.

QQ is more used on desktop computers in offices. The competition and WeChat is exactly the same as that of Skype and WhatsApp in the West. People install QQ on their phones mainly to communicate on business issues.

Wallets and financial applications

For financial matters, most people install Alipay (支付 宝) and their bank’s application. Alipay is another comprehensive application that can do the same with Android Pay and PayPal. In addition, you can pay for all kinds of services: electricity and gas, communication bills, etc.

Alipay works almost like a bank, it has all banking functions: withdrawing and depositing funds, transferring money to another person’s bank account, buying securities and insurance, etc.

Alipay's largest Chinese rival as a virtual wallet is the WeChat wallet.

In most stores you can find such an icon for Alipay and WaChat wallets, by scanning the code you can pay for the purchase.

Alipay has countless extensions. For example, it has a messenger similar to WeChat, there is also a page for finding restaurants and entertainment closest to you, just like in Groupon.

Online shopping

Before the era of mobile applications, Taobao (淘 宝) was the largest online market in China. On it were sellers from international mega-corporations to individuals. On Taobao you will find everything you can legally sell in China, from motorcycles to toothpicks. Many stores in Taobao provide shipping services, with their help you can buy goods from Paris and New York at a very reasonable price. Taobao also offers people from less developed countries the opportunity to buy cheap and high-quality Chinese clothing and household items.

Inside the station is an express delivery company in Zhejiang. Employees do the daily work of processing packages from Taobao stores.

JD (京东) is an Amazon-like company, selling almost the same as Amazon. They have fierce competition with Amazon in China. JD is known for selling electrical products, and Amazon is known for selling books.

Taxi search

In China, there is now a fierce battle between Uber and the local DiDi (嘀嘀). DiDi covers more cities, big and small. You can call a taxi licensed by DiDi. It seems that Uber is fighting for its place, offering lower rates.


There are many news apps. The most popular are Netease and Tencent.

Maps and navigation

Baidu Maps (百度 地图) are essentially copied from Google Maps. They are useful only within China, because data from countries outside of China are incomplete. By the way, Google is blocked in China, so using its map application will fail.

The Gaode Maps app (高 德 地图) has become the most popular car navigation software. It is installed in old GPS navigators and is purchased for a fee.

Search for restaurants and entertainment

These two applications, Meituan (美 团) and Nuomi (糯米), are similar to Groupon, and are almost identical to each other.

First, they determine your location by GPS and offer a store or service depending on the selected filters: by distance, rating, price, etc. I feel that these Chinese applications cover more types of consumer services than their counterparts in the United States, with a more detailed classification. Walking a couple of blocks further from your apartment, you will find that more than 80% of businesses are registered in applications: food sales, massage, room service, gyms, etc.

To attract additional users, these applications conduct campaigns with discounts on each order, that is, in fact, they “buy” users for real money.

Takeaway food

Takeaway foods are mainly informal dishes and snacks such as sandwiches and tortillas. In the USA, such food is mainly ordered through the Seamless and Grubhub apps.

In China, restaurants and grocery stores, from 18-course diners to fast-food eateries, pack and deliver meals on customer orders. Previously, customers left orders over the phone, and now through applications.

There are two most popular applications: Meituan Waimai (美 团 外卖) and Baidu Waimai (百度 外卖), they collaborate with restaurants and street cafes. They have their own courier staff.

This is an interesting sight in China - groups of couriers in beautiful uniforms and electric scooters are waiting on the “dining” streets, waiting next to large restaurants. Having received an application from the system, one of them enters the restaurant, picks up the packaged food and takes it to the client.

Game and application stores

The 5 most popular single-player and MMO games.

Games differ from applications in that they earn money by selling. The scale and trends of the Chinese gaming market today attract a lot of attention. The number of Chinese players is huge, games of any genre have an astronomical number of players. In the article I will consider only the most popular genres.

The general situation in the Chinese market for mobile games is as follows: the most popular and most profitable genre is MMORPG, there are countless games in it. In other types of games, such as “three in a row”, “tower defense” and in card games, the number one game usually holds a monopoly position.


梦幻 西游 ("Fantasy about " Journey to the West " ") is a game with national motives, it belongs to an old franchise with a lot of fans. 梦幻 西游 and many similar MMORPGs have common features: they are all of high quality and with beautiful graphics. Usually they are based on the Chinese mythology of Wuxia (martial arts).

Regardless of the combat system used: JRPG arena, Diablo style or 2D scroller - all of them have the same game mechanisms: level up, search for weapons, basic quest tasks, social and team tasks that are very close to the hearts of the Chinese.

西游 uses the JRPG fighting style and simplifications for mobile devices with automatic battles.

Below are screenshots from popular MMORPGs.

Three in a row (Match 3)

开心 消 消 乐 (Happy Match) is a popular game in all of China, generating a monthly profit of 100 million yuan ($ 15 million). Because of her style, she cannot stand on a par with the best three-in-a-row games in the world, such as the Candy Crush and Cookie Jam series. But it is a great example of how a mobile game can build its success on Tencent's Wechat / QQ.

In the West, the virality of mobile games is highly dependent on players connecting via Facebook. As I wrote above, a similar platform in China is Wechat / QQ. And all games that are highly dependent on a circle of friends should work closely with Tencent, because unlike Facebook, Tencent platforms are not open to developers.

The number three match three game in China is 宾 果 消 消 乐 (Colorful Fruit Match), and it lags far behind number one. But number three is not in China.

Candy Crush Saga and Cookie Jam entered the Chinese market for a long time, but you will not find them in the leaderboard.


The most popular 2D runner game is Tencent's 天天 酷 Every (Everyday Cool Run). Her gameplay is not bad, but social functions and a system of improvements to equipment and pets make the game quite confusing. The runner game should be simple enough, because you can start and stop playing it at any moment, right?

The two most popular 3D runners are Subway Surfers and Temple Run 2. They are excellent, these games have flexible controls, and new content is regularly added to them. There are heaps of other Chinese 3D-runners, but they did not find a place in the leaderboard: Chinese developers usually do not very well “grasp” the nuances necessary for active games.

Games like Clash of Clans

In China, as you can guess, there are much more imitations and clones of games of this type than in the rest of the world. However, Clash of Clans still holds first place in China. And her success led to her close proximity to the Clash Royale leaderboard.


Like the rest of the world, Minecraft seems to be installed on every child’s phone or tablet. Now they are crazy about Story Mode.

Collectible card games

The WarCraft franchise has a huge fan base in China, so no game can compete with Hearthstone.

The card game 刀 塔 传奇 (Dot Arena) was a massive success. Unlike Heathstone, cards are not played on the table: a player fights with a group of heroes in automatic battle mode. The game is notable for the fact that Blizzard has a long legal battle with its developer due to plagiarized graphics.

Unformatted games

This is not to say that such games received massive success in China, but their developers usually say that sales set an unexpected record.

Other popular games

Musical, FPS, tower defense, poker.

And about Pokemon Go

A few years ago, almost every child from a wealthy family had a Game Boy or GB Color with the required Pokemon cartridge. It can be seen that Nintendo was firmly established here, and you can understand what would have happened if it released its mobile games in China.

“Pokemon Go: the cause of a serious accident was a driver who stopped in the middle of the road to catch Pikachu!”

If they release Pokemon Go in China, then the company will have to replace Google with its Chinese partners involved in maps and social networks. I don’t know what this would lead to. And it is better if the game never appears in China, because otherwise there will be many stories about teenagers chasing Pikachu, hit by cars, or about children falling into ditches.