With his dashing looks, it is little wonder that 28-year-old tycoon Li Zeyan has wooed hundreds of thousands of women across China - not bad for an avatar in a mobile game.
Li is the most popular character in "Love and Producer," a Chinese simulation game that has been downloaded more than 10 million times since debuting in December, mostly by women seeking fantasy affairs with its four virtual suitors. Its viral popularity has highlighted a huge potential market for the gaming industry in China, where one in four mobile phone gamers is a woman - numbers that are expected to grow.
The game, and a separate one also aimed at women in which users can care for an intrepid frog character, have leaped into the top ranks of China's most-downloaded mobile games.
The frenzy over the games has focused attention on China's "she economy" - the expanding consumer power of its hundreds of millions of smartphone-wielding women - just as game developers face slowing growth in the gigantic market for battle and strategy games aimed largely at Chinese men.
In "Love and Producer," players choose from four Prince Charmings - business CEO Li, a scientist, a special agent and a famous singer - attractive "catches" that tap into the rising relationship expectations of Chinese millennial women. China's huge population of cell users already increasingly live through their smartphones, communicating via messaging apps like WeChat, sharing on social media and paying digitally for a range of goods and services with a tap on their phone screen. China already is a mobile-gaming leader, with internet giant Tencent in particular raking in profits from games like the hit "Honour of Kings" in which players spend on things like outfits for their characters.
In the "real" world, one unidentified fan wished Li Zeyan a happy birthday in a giant illuminated message projected on a skyscraper in the southern city of Shenzhen on Jan. 13, a pricey stunt likely to have cost tens of thousands of yuan (several thousand dollars).
Various estimates put the percentages of U.S. women who regularly play mobile games at 50 percent or higher, boosted by popular apps like the puzzle game "Candy Crush." Chinese consultancy iResearch said women accounted for 24.1 percent of gamers in China in 2016, but that figure is projected to climb. "The overall mobile game industry faces a bottleneck in user growth, but female players have been unleashed in terms of playing time and their willingness and ability to pay," said Wang Guanxiong, an independent industry analyst.
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