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One of the earliest mini games -- Tiao Yi Tiao -- made national headlines this January, amassing 100 million users in just two weeks. (Picture: Shutterstock)

Tencent wants to pay developers more to make better games for WeChat

WeChat's mini programs are hugely popular, but its games section is flooded with clones

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

Remember those games that you can play directly on Facebook Messenger? China’s biggest messaging app WeChat has the same thing.

They’re part of WeChat’s lineup of mini programs, essentially lightweight apps that can run virtually instantly without the need for long downloads.

But... remember how those little Messenger games feel a little cheap? Well, WeChat has the same thing there, too.

Now Tencent plans to offer developers a bigger cut if they create better games. The company says that games that qualify as “creative games” can keep 70% of the revenue, as opposed to the default 50%.
This new creative game scheme came right after WeChat boasted that it now has more than 1 million mini programs, of which games reportedly account for somewhere between 30% and 40%.

To put that into perspective, having one million mini apps puts WeChat at around half the size of Apple’s iOS App Store.

WeChat, the app that does everything

But like I said, WeChat is not known to be a hotbed of quality games. Quite the opposite. It has seen a large amount of unlicensed, reskinned games flooding the platform.
Many of the mini games found on WeChat are unabashedly similar to other games. (Picture: WeChat/Gamelook)
In fact, Tencent has already launched a few crackdowns on reskinned games. The company said it will ban games which straight-up plagiarize.
For instance, a reskinned version of Canadian simulation game AdVenture Capitalist was previously free to play on WeChat. All aspects of the game, including the music, were nearly identical to the original. The game was later taken down after complaints were filed.
If this isn’t plagiarism, I don’t know what is. (Picture: WeChat/Gamelook)
According to Chinese media, some gaming companies even openly sell the source code of hit games on Chinese ecommerce sites, targeting those who want to publish games on WeChat.

If you want to hire a studio to reskin a hit game for you, it would reportedly cost you somewhere between US$3,000 and US$7,000, with a one to three weeks development period.

For anyone familiar with game publishing, you might be puzzled by how this new cut is notable. After all, Apple’s App Store and Google Play have been operating with a 70-30 split with app makers for a while now.

But in fact, Chinese Android’s app markets have adopted a 50-50 cut since the very beginning, with none willing to budge.

The implications are amplified when you consider that Google Play is blocked in China, while the country’s Android market is growing bigger and bigger by the minute as more homegrown smartphone brands rise to prominence.

But recent signs of Google’s plan to grow more in China is making people think that a marketwide standardization of a 70-30 split is destined to happen -- something to bear in mind when considering Tencent’s apparent generosity.

One of the earliest mini games -- Tiao Yi Tiao -- made national headlines this January, amassing 100 million users in just two weeks. (Picture: Shutterstock)

However, the good news has come at a very inconvenient time. China has stopped approving new games this year, so none of the mini games on WeChat are currently allowed to monetize.

With that being said, mini apps and mini games are still a hugely attractive market for programmers. According to Tencent co-founder Pony Ma, WeChat's mini apps section has 200 million daily users -- and each active user was reportedly engaging with mini apps at least four times a day.

Pony Ma, the tycoon behind China's social media and gaming giant Tencent

China’s biggest game company is cutting ads because the country isn’t approving new 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.