Superman trumps Chinese military strategist to lead Tencent’s fight for US players
Superman, Wonder Woman and Batman are lending their superhero powers to China’s biggest online gaming company in its quest to conquer the US market
Tencent Holdings has enlisted the Justice League trio of Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to spearhead its push to win more converts to its maiden mobile game set for release in the US on December 19, just in time for the holiday season.
Arena of Valour is the English version of Tencent’s chart-topping Honour of Kings, which has more than 200 million players in China. Honour of Kings, a mobile version of popular computer game League of Legends, was the top-grossing mobile game worldwide on both Android and Apple’s iOS platforms as of October, according to gaming data firm SuperData Research.
The US release marks the first major overseas game launch for Tencent, China’s biggest gaming and social media company based in hi-tech hub Shenzhen.
The success of Tencent’s first offering in the US could act as a barometer for Chinese brands to measure how they resonate in the world’s biggest economy and retail market. Several major mainland companies, from Tencent to China’s car companies, have been knocking on US doors for years without much success.
Just as Western brands found themselves having to customise their products and services for the China market to gain traction, mainland companies like Tencent are beginning to do the same with their own offerings in overseas markets.
In the third quarter this year, Tencent’s online games revenue grew 48 per cent year on year to 26.8 billion yuan (US$4 billion), driven by the success of Honour of Kings and other new titles.
Tencent, which owns the hit titles League of Legends and Clash of Clans through its acquisition of Western game developers Riot Games and Supercell, is aiming to replicate its success in China, where it derives most of its revenue from gaming and advertising, in overseas markets.
To win over gamers in the North and South American markets, Tencent made significant adjustments to the Chinese historical figures and folklore characters featured in the game, swapping some of them with new DC Comics characters, such as Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman, licensed from Warner Bros. Live streaming video platform Twitch has already been broadcasting gaming sessions on Arena of Valour to boost anticipation and to promote the launch.
Honour of Kings was so popular in China it even drew criticism from state-owned media, accusing it of being “poison” and a “drug” that was harming teenagers.
In July, Tencent imposed a daily time limit of one hour for players under the age of 12, who will also not be able to log into the game after 9pm. Players between the ages of 12 and 18 are allowed two hours of daily play time.
The Chinese version of the game features characters like Zhuge Liang, a renowned military strategist, and his arch nemesis Zhou Yu, from the early 3rd century AD, a time when the Roman Empire in the West had descended into crisis.
The launch in North and South America comes at a time when competition is heating up in Tencent’s home market. In recent weeks, Tencent added to its platform a number of survival games designed for a large number of gamers, including the global hit PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, as well as H1Z1 and Europa, to compete against similar games available in China from competitors such as NetEase.