Tencent in talks with EA to bring hit battle royale game Apex Legends to China
- China’s video games giant already handles domestic distribution for two of the genre’s biggest hits, PUBG and Fortnite
Tencent Holdings, which runs the world’s biggest video games business by revenue, is in talks with Electronic Arts (EA) to bring the US publisher’s new hit title Apex Legends to China, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.
That deal would bolster Shenzhen-based Tencent’s portfolio of popular titles that it distributes in China, which includes two other hit video games in the battle royale genre – PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and Fortnite.
The Chinese internet giant’s tie-up with EA, however, has not been confirmed at this stage, said the person, who requested anonymity because the information is private. Speculation about such a partnership initially spread on Chinese microblogging site Sina Weibo.
Tencent and EA did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Launched on February 4 for the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows personal computers, Apex Legends is a free-to-play battle royale game that lets players compete in a squad of three, each choosing a character with a special trait. Similar to Fortnite and PUBG, players have to scavenge for guns, armour and other items to survive and be the last one standing in a gradually shrinking battlefield.
Apex Legends is already the most popular game on live-streaming site Twitch, averaging 270,000 viewers in the past seven days, according to third-party data provider TwitchTracker. In its first week, the game racked up 25 million players, according to its developer Respawn Entertainment. By comparison, it took three months for Fortnite to reach 30 million users.
The success of Fortnite and PUBG have spurred major game publishers to compete against one another in the battle royale genre, which combines elements of a survival game with last-man-standing gameplay.
In 2017, Tencent obtained the rights to distribute Fortnite and PUBG in China. Tencent, which acquired a 40 per cent of Fortnite developer Epic Games in 2012, bought a minority interest in
PUBG developer Bluehole of South Korea in 2017. Tencent has since developed two mobile adaptations of PUBG.
The potential EA deal for Apex Legends follows Chinese regulators’ recent move to end a nine-month freeze in approving new game licenses in the world’s second largest economy. Publishers in China are required to submit games for review to authorities before they can be sold in the domestic market.
While Tencent has attracted millions of players for the two mobile remakes of PUBG and a desktop version of Fortnite via domestic trial runs, the Hong Kong-listed company is still awaiting government licences to monetise these free titles through in-game purchases, such as character outfits.
Outside China, Fortnite made US$2.4 billion last year, the most annual revenue of any video game in history, according to research firm SuperData.
The popularity of Apex Legends overseas would seem to increase its potential to become the next hit game for Tencent in China.
China’s industry regulator, the State Administration of Press and Publications, restarted the approval process for new video games in December, and has since reviewed more than 400 titles.