ByteDance, which owns TikTok and mobile game developer Moonton, plans to compete with giants like Tencent and NetEase for the attention of mobile gamers in the Chinese market.
Things took a turn for the better for ByteDance last week when Chinese censors approved its biggest mobile game for release in China. Mobile Legends: Bang Bang is a team-based multiplayer MOBA video game that generates approximately $12 million in monthly in-app purchases and 4 million downloads. In 2021, ByteDance acquired the game’s developer, Moonton, for about $4 billion, months before Chinese regulators stepped up scrutiny of big tech acquisitions. Mobile Legends has been an undisputed hit since its release in 2016, especially in Southeast Asia, but it was never officially released in China.
The Chinese MOBA market is currently dominated by Tencent, primarily through Honor of Kings for mobile and League of Legends, a subsidiary of Riot Games Inc., for PC. Honor of Kings owes much of its success to super app WeChat as an informal marketing channel.
ByteDance’s plans for its own Douyin app (a TikTok app for the China region) could have a similar effect. With Mobile Legends a proven hit around the world, it’s a relatively safe bet for ByteDance in China.
It’s too early to say that ByteDance will dethrone Honor of Kings or other Tencent games, but the Chinese gaming market is finally showing signs of a resurgence.