Knives Out Vs. Rules of Survival: A Mobile Games Culturalization Case Study

Knives Out and Rules of Survival are PUBG clones from the same Chinese publisher. Each are culturalized for their respective markets. We look at 3 major differences between the two as a case study for mobile games culturalization.

You’ve probably noticed Knives Out and Rules of Survival are PUBG clones from the same Chinese publisher: Netease. Why would Netease make two of the same game?


Upon further inspection, these games are more different than you’d think. Knives Out was designed for Asian markets like Japan. Rules of Survival was designed for western markets like the US. These two games are a great case study in culturalizing games for different markets. (As a reference, at the start of March, Knives Out on the Japanese app store is #7 in Overall Top Grossing charts and #1 in Top Free Downloads on iOS. Rules of Survival is in the Top 20 in terms of overall downloads and Top 100 in terms of grossing in the US.)


Difference 1: Initial App Size


The first major difference is noticeable before you even open the game. Rules of Engagement is 845 MB at the time of this post (March 2018). Knives Out is only 31MB. Most of the downloading for Knives Out comes after the tutorial! This is very common in Asia as you want to engage players earlier on. In the US or western markets, the expectation is that you’ll already be connected to wifi when installing the game. In Japan however, you’re likely to be browsing when you don’t have wifi. You’re more likely to wait until you’re home or at work to download the rest of the game.


When designing your game for Asian markets, keep in mind that file size is really important. If you can get players to initially download the game and try a portion, do it. Get them to try and like the game first, then download the rest when they’re home. Knives Out uses this trick.


Difference 2: Gacha and Monetization


This wouldn’t be a blog post about Japan without talking about each games’ gacha system. Knives Out and Rules of Survival have similar gacha systems in place. Both games use skins so that characters can customize their avatars. Both games have annuities and VIP subscriptions. However, the in-game purchases (IAPs) and stores are a bit different.


There are a couple of subtle differences between the two. The first is the number of currencies. Knives Out has three currencies (Coins, Diamonds, and Gold). Rules of Survival has one soft currency and one hard currency, both of which can be used to purchase outfits, skins, and loot boxes. You can grind more easily in Rules of Survival–you can convert repeated looks much quicker and use components to purchase items once you’ve saved up enough. Hard currency can be used to bypass this grind mechanic. Currency in Knives Out seems to be much tighter and grinding for items is not possible.



Knives Out has multiple recommended outfits and suggests to players curated looks (i.e. the store pushes buying sets of items). There are recommended outfits and sets for players to buy which are much more in your face than in Rules of Survival. These looks are automatically added to your cart when you visit the store. Again, a subtle difference but as an American player, I’m annoyed that I have to unselect it every time. You feel much more pressured into buying hard currency.


Gacha System Knives Out

Lucky Bags or 福袋 ‘fukubukuro’ are common in Japan and Japanese games


Difference 3: Creative in Knives Out Vs. Rules of Survival


Of course, the largest difference in culturalization of a game is its creative. Right away, you can tell a difference in terms of creative. While the gameplay itself is fairly similar (PUBG mechanics), the menus and other aspects of the game have a Japanese/Asian feel. Just look at the difference between the two screens below when I died while both games.


Rules of Survival Death Screen

Rules of Survival


Knives Out Death Screen

Knives Out


Which one looks more like a “Japanese Game?” A sexy anime character which is largely irrelevant to actual gameplay is used when a player dies in Knives Out. Using sex appeal in games is much more common in Japanese games. So while foreign games companies would often try to be more inclusive (like in Rules of Survival), Japanese studios tend to focus creatives to appeal to their known audience (in this case, this game targets hardcore male gamers).


Interested in learning more about culturalizing your mobile game for Japan? Contact us below or at info[at] and let’s take a look at taking your game to the Japanese market.

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