Chinese Developer Created Apple’s iPhone Game of the Year

Apple’s 2019 iPhone Game of the Year, Sky: Children of the Light (Source: Apple)

For the first time, Apple hosted an offline event for its 2019 Apps of Year event in New York, to celebrate the top mobile applications of 2019. In previous years, the Cupertino-based company would just release a list of the top apps on the iOS app store. Notably, “Sky: Children of the Light” won the prize for Best iPhone Game of 2019, developed by that game company, and more specifically the company’s founder Chen Xinghan.

Chen Xinghan founded that game company in 2006 along with a fellow student at the University of Southern California, Kellee Santiago. Chen hoped that his game “Sky: Children of Light” would be a social adventure accessible to gamers of all age groups. While Chen’s previous award winning title was a console game, he explained that iOS was easily optimized for mobile gamers, while Android-based games took more effort to adjust.

While Chen originally intended for “Sky: Children of the Light” to be a paid game, it was released for free on the iOS store at Apple’s suggestion. Apple explained that users’ willingness to pay for games was relatively low, creating a prohibitive barrier to user acquisition. Instead, Chen settled on the increasingly popular game monetization model of in-game purchases. Popularized by the outstanding success of games like Fortnite, which are free to play but offer in-game customization purchases, Chen’s in-game purchases in “Sky: Children of the Light” have positive connotations.

He explains how he wanted this to be a morally positive game that families and parents would support their kids playing. As a result, in-game purchases are mostly gifts for relationship building in what is inherently a social game. Right now “Sky: Children of the Light” has 5 million players globally, and 2 million in China. What surprised Chen was that the game was immensely popular among female players. In fact, 75% of the active gamers on “Sky: Children of the Light” are female.

While Chen expressed his gratitude towards Apple for the award, he also said that he hopes games like “Sky: Children of the Light” can help banish the negative stigma around games, instead vouching for the inspirational positive ability that games have.

Meanwhile, at Apple’s event, they categorized the current trend for games in Greater China, which was focused on reinventing classic IPs. Improvements in device specifications can add a new vitality to older games, which can inspire nostalgia in many gamers.


If you want to explore China’s tech ecosystem but don’t know where to start, check out DecodeChina, a one-week immersion program organized by insiders from Pandaily. The latest installment will take place in Beijing and Shenzhen on January 13-19, 2020. Visit decode.pandaily.com to apply and secure a spot!