Honour of Kings

Tencent’s Honour of Kings loses top spot in China to PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds copycat game

The survival game with no English title, shot to the top of China’s iOS store earlier this month, eclipsing Tencent’s blockbuster after a year in top spot

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 November, 2017, 1:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 November, 2017, 7:26pm

Honour of Kings, the blockbuster title from gaming and social media giant Tencent, lost the top spot in China’s iOS store to a rival uncannily similar to the world’s hottest PC title, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG).

The new game from Beijing-based NetEase, which does not have an English title, translating roughly to “survival in the wilderness”, took the top spot on November 4, according to researcher App Annie. It features similar gameplay to PUBG, including parachuting 100 players onto an island, having them scavenge for armour and weapons before a battle to the death.

Honour of Kings spent almost a year as the top-grossing game on Apple’s China store as players hacked and slashed, usually in teams, through a battle arena to take down the enemy. Now they are flocking to Hunger Games-like shooter games. The success of the new NetEase title comes as PUBG, which is published by Bluehole Studio, faces a tough time getting licensed in China as regulators discourage survival-themed games.

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“Chinese developers are the best in the world when it comes to copying domestic or foreign hit titles at record speed,” says Serkan Toto, founder of Tokyo-based consultancy Kantan Games. “It’s just amazing how fast, and in some cases, how good Chinese companies can take over content made by others.”

Sharon Hu, a spokeswoman forNetEase, said she could not immediately comment, while Jane Yip, a spokeswoman for Shenzhen-based Tencent, did not respond to an email and text query. A spokesman for Bluehole didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment, either.

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As of midday on Tuesday, NetEase’s game was so popular that the company had to halt the service for system upgrades due to server pressure, it said in a notice. The game has since resumed.

PUBG has sold more than 13 million copies; each one selling for about US$30. While it is usually played on personal computers, a version for Microsoft’s Xbox One console will be released next month.

Tencent bought a stake of less than 5 per cent in Bluehole, the Korea Economic Daily reported in September. This comes as Tencent plans its own new game that pays tribute to PUBG, promoting the title by using the word chiji (meaning “eat chicken”) in the domain that is teasing the roll-out on November 8. In PUBG, the end of each battle ends with the words: “Winner, winner, chicken dinner.”

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“Survival-themed games might become the biggest revenue drivers next year, and in China, companies have the tendency to copy the same games in swarms,” says Li Muzhi, a Hong Kong-based analyst at Arete Research Services. “In the end, you’re competing for user volume and user engagement. Tencent has been actively investing in this space.”