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Shanghai-based miHoYo, developer of Genshin Impact, has won a new video game licence in China. Photo: Shutterstock

Genshin Impact developer miHoYo gets a boost as Beijing grants new game licence for expected shooting game

  • Keqier Frontier, a mobile game owned by miHoYo, was among 60 online games approved by the National Press and Publication Administration
  • Keqier Frontier still has no official trailer, pictures or an English title, but online gamers expect it to be a shooter game
Video gaming

Chinese video games developer miHoYo, creator of Genshin Impact, this week received a rare licence from Beijing to launch a rumoured shooting game to players in China, giving it a leg up against rivals Tencent Holdings and NetEase.

Keqier Frontier, a mobile game owned by miHoYo, was among 60 online games approved by the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA) this week. It is the first title from the Shanghai-based developer to be licensed by the Chinese government following the success of Genshin Impact, launched in 2020 and which brings in around US$1 billion in revenue for miHoYo every six months.

While it remains unknown when miHoYo will officially release the approved game, about which little is known, the news has fanned speculation that it could give the Shanghai-based firm a boost as it seeks to take on bigger rivals.

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“miHoYo wants to stand out from its competitors, but it’s obviously not enough to become a gaming giant with Genshin Impact alone,” said Zhang Shule, an analyst at Beijing-based research institute Kandong.

Keqier Frontier has no official trailer, pictures or even an English name as yet, but China’s online gaming community widely expects it to be a shooting game, which could challenge titles such as Tencent’s PUBG Mobile.

miHoYo did not immediately reply to a request for comment on Thursday.

According to data compiled by Sensor Tower, Genshin Impact ranked No 3 in worldwide mobile game revenues for April 2022, behind Honour of Kings and PUBG Mobile, both of which are owned by Tencent, the world’s largest video gaming company by revenue.

miHoYo, founded in 2011 by three engineering postgraduates from Shanghai Jiao Tong University – Cai Haoyu, Liu Wei and Luo Yuhao – has emerged as a powerful domestic rival to NetEase and Tencent, the country’s two-largest video games companies. Its headcount has nearly tripled in the last two years to about 4,000 in 2022, as it accelerates new title development.

Video game licences, which give official approval for a game to be launched via computers and smartphones to players in China, have become like gold dust in the country in recent years amid a crackdown on content. In 2017, more than 9,000 titles were cleared to publish against 2,064 in 2018 after a nine-month approvals suspension, with a further slump to 679 in 2019.

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China subsequently suspended issuing game licences from July 2021 to April 2022. In April, it issued 45 licences. Games developed by Tencent and NetEase have so far been excluded from approvals in 2022, continuing an 11-month drought for the two industry giants.

Separately, miHoYo has said it has other projects under development including Honkai: Star Rail, the fourth instalment of its HonKai series which has been under internal testing, and Zenless Zone Zero, an action game that released its first promotional video last month.