Tencent is plumbing mobile gaming markets worldwide
The internet and gaming giant is rolling out Call of Duty Mobile to the rest of the world as the Chinese market clamps down on violent content
Hong Kong — Internet and gaming giant Tencent Holdings plans to roll out marquee title Call of Duty Mobile to markets from the US and Europe to Latin America, accelerating efforts to plumb new avenues of growth as uncertainty grips its Chinese home market.
The world’s largest game developer plans to tap the marketing and distribution network it built when rolling out hack-and-slash hit Arena of Valor. Tencent now plans to expand that team by hiring more developers abroad, and also explore other genres to target international gaming aficionados, said Palo Alto-based Vincent Gao, overseas marketing director for Tencent’s TiMi Studio Group and Arena of Valor.
After years of importing games in their entirety to entertain its billion-plus social media users at home, Tencent (in which Naspers has a more-than 30%stake) is reversing its playbook by adapting popular titles for mobile then exporting them overseas. It’s a move that helps the WeChat-operator hedge against slowing growth and regulatory clampdowns at home, as the government weeds out violent content online and curbs screen time for teenagers.
“We’ve accumulated a lot of experience from developing mobile games in the past, and we think we have a pretty good chance of exporting our know-how,” Gao said in an interview. “In the future, we plan to introduce more categories with top-tier game developers.”
Like arch-foe Alibaba Group Holding, Tencent is keen to sustain its rapid-fire growth. In May, Tencent reported its slowest pace of sales expansion since going public in 2004. It’s casting its net globally to diversify away from a slowing domestic economy that’s now in the cross-hairs of the US government.
It picked Call of Duty (CoD), a first-person shooter developed by Activision Blizzard, to spearhead an international drive because it’s one of the best-selling game franchises of all time. Tencent’s mobile version is currently in beta-testing and a date for a full public roll-out has not yet been set, Gao said. But the Chinese giant is eyeing eventual launches in the US and Japan as well as across Europe, Latin America and Southeast Asia.
Gao denied reports that the company has disbanded the overseas marketing and sales team for Arena of Valor, the international version of the battle arena hit Honour of Kings. Tencent has never had a team stationed in Europe and, in fact, plans to hire more developers for its American unit, he added.
Tencent encourages internal competition when it comes to developing games. TiMi is the largest of its four main creative studio groups, thanks to the breakout success of Honour of Kings. The overseas version of that same title struck gold in Vietnam, Thailand and Taiwan, according to Randy Nelson, head of mobile insights at consultancy Sensor Tower.
TiMi “has its heart set on expanding globally. We’re very determined in that strategy”, Gao said.
It’s unclear how Tencent will share revenue with Activision or other parties, but Tencent’s global ambitions go well beyond the title CoD. TiMi alone is already working with several international companies to introduce games in the shooter, role-playing and other categories, Gao said, though he wouldn’t specify titles.
However, the executive did address one area of concern for developers: that their work will get copied. Gao said TiMi will do better at respecting intellectual property (IP) rights. While content and story lines have been an area of relative weakness for the company, Tencent has a pretty good chance of being competitive globally in game-play and systems, he said.
“While Tencent has focused mostly on China in the past, we are now looking at the gaming sector with a much more global perspective. This will make the company pay better attention to IP protection.”