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Video gaming

‘China’s Twitch’ Huya surpasses 100 million monthly active users despite Beijing’s content crackdown

  • Huya CEO says the game live-streaming company will establish a subsidiary focusing on e-sports
PUBLISHED : Monday, 07 January, 2019, 12:59pm
UPDATED : Monday, 07 January, 2019, 7:13pm

Huya, China’s answer to the game-streaming site Twitch, has exceeded 100 million monthly active users (MAU) as the platform continues to grow despite Beijing’s crackdowns on online content.

The Guangzhou-based, New York-listed company surpassed the 100 million MAU benchmark by the end of 2018, up from 99 million in the third quarter, Huya chief executive Dong Rongjie said on Saturday during an annual gala.

That figure reinforces six-year-old Huya’s position as one of China’s most popular game streaming sites, putting it ahead of peers like its parent firm YY and Longzhu.com. By comparison, Amazon.com-owned Twitch is estimated to have 140 million monthly unique viewers.

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Huya generated US$8.3 million in net income in the three months ended September, compared with a US$4.3 million loss in the year-earlier period.

The popularity of video gaming, game live-streaming and e-sports is a worldwide phenomenon, feeding into each other as professional players make a living commenting on or hosting other players in streaming sessions. More than a million people are tuned at any one time to Twitch, and the top streamers are celebrities in their own right.

China is home to the world’s biggest user base of live streaming, with the industry revenue expected to grow from US$5.5 billion in 2017 to US$16.5 billion by 2022, according to figures Huya quoted in a filing to the US securities regulator. Total revenue of the country’s game streaming market is expected reach US$4.9 billion by then.

Huya generates the bulk of its revenue from advertising and value-added services such as sales of virtual gifts to users, who buy them to tip their favourite streamers. Chinese video games giant Tencent Holdings is Huya's second-largest shareholder with a 34.6 per cent stake.

In China, though, concerns about video-game addiction and violence in games have led to periodic crackdowns by the authorities.

China’s authorities have expressed support for e-sports, even though the government has kept the gaming industry on a tight leash by suspending the approval of new games for as long as nine months. In the 2018 Asian Games at Jakarta, Team China took home two golds and one silver in e-sports, a demonstration event.

Women pro gamers make their mark on China e-sports

At the weekend gala, Huya chief executive Dong announced that the company will establish a subsidiary focusing on e-sports this year, as competitive gaming becomes more mainstream in China. The company already operates an e-sports team competing in Overwatch, a popular online first-person shooting game from US developer Blizzard Entertainment.

As live-streaming blurs the line between real-life and reality television, many users have taken to streaming their daily activities online, with the most popular hosts making a living off virtual gifts from singing popular songs to chatting with their online followers.

Merchants on popular e-commerce sites have also taken to live-streaming their wares, much like television shopping channels.

In August, Huya banned private-hire car drivers from live-streaming their passengers after a public backlash.

Last year, popular apps including Douyu and Longzhu were temporarily removed from app stores after hosting porn and other illegal content.