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Comments from viewers flying across the screen

Tencent moves into game streaming

Social and entertainment giant buys into Douyu

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

Tencent’s gaming division is growing steadily, and now it’s betting big on people watching games too.

The head of popular Chinese streaming website Douyu announced on social media that the company has received US$630 million from the company behind some of the biggest names in gaming. Along with its own Arena of Valor, Tencent either owns or has stakes in the companies behind Clash of Clans, League of Legends and Fortnite.

Founded in 2013, Douyu is one of several platforms -- including Panda TV and Huya -- that are racing to become the Chinese equivalent of Twitch, the popular game streaming site owned by Amazon.

When you go to Douyu, you’ll find streams of popular games such as League of Legends, Dota 2, Hearthstone, and PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds.

Streams of hit games like League of Legends and Dota 2 can be found on Douyu

So far, so Twitch. But the familiarity ends here. Once you hit play on a video, you’ll probably be surprised to see words flying across the screen.

Comments from viewers flying across the screen

While Twitch places the chatroom to one side, Douyu embraces chaos by splashing comments on top of gameplay. Users can also pay to highlight their comments in certain colors, which makes it even more overwhelming.


(If you’re wondering why people are posting strings of the number 6 -- in China, it’s used on the internet to show that something awesome has happened. And 23333 represents laughter.)

Just like Twitch, viewers on Douyu can tip their favorite streamers by paying for virtual gifts. Streamers then get a cut of that sale, with the rest kept by the platform, similar to Twitch’s revenue-sharing program.

But it isn’t all games on Douyu. One of its top stars is Feng Timo, who broadcasts herself singing original songs and covers almost every day to more than 14 million followers.

One of Douyu’s top streamers -- internet singer Feng Timo

Livestreaming is a big business in China, where the audience is huge: Nearly 400 million people regularly tune in to various forms of live broadcast on mobile devices, according to iResearch. That’s more than the population of the United States.

The massive market has even attracted Google, which owns Twitch rival YouTube. Early this year, it led a US$120 million investment in Chushou, a live-streaming platform specializing on mobile games.

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.