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ByteDance to Take a Bite Out of Tencent?

ByteDance, the owner of TikTok, which has been attracting eyeballs to its viral apps is now trying to become an even bigger success in the gaming world too. The Chinese company’s latest game, One Piece: The Voyage, based on a popular Japanese anime, has been the most downloaded free game in Apple’s App Store in China since its launch last week. Other games like The King of Fighters: All Stars, based on a famous gaming franchise, are in the pipeline.

Signaling its ambitions

For a few years now ByteDance has been in games, but not as a main line of business.

The company is stepping up and trying to target the more lucrative serious gamers. In March it acquired Moonton, a Chinese game company founded by a former Tencent employee, and this month it bought C4-Games. These two recent deals have hinted on the company’s ambitions.

Mobile Legends which is Moonton’s flagship title, is one of the most popular games in Southeast Asia. This game has generated more than $880 million in revenue world-wide since 2016 across both the App Store and Google Play, with around 408 million downloads, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower. And that number doesn’t include gamers using third-party app stores.

C4 has also been strong outside of China. It’s Houchi Shoujo is one of the best performing games overseas from a Chinese company, due to its popularity in Japan.

Competitors, new trends, and new ambitions

This is happening at a time when China’s largest gaming company, Tencent, is also looking to expand overseas. The company’s PUBG Mobile is one of the top-grossing mobile games globally, downloaded more than a billion times outside of China since its launch in 2018. According to research firm Analysys, Tencent had more than half of China’s mobile gaming market in the first half of 2020.

So, it is easy to see why ByteDance covets the mobile-game market. According to analytics firm Newzoo, because of the help of stay-at-home gamers, smartphone gaming revenue grew 25.6% in 2020 to $86.3 billion in 2020.

ByteDance’s advantage

The vast user base of ByteDance that use TikTok and its Chinese version, Douyin, gives it an edge in its pursuit into gaming world both at home and abroad. According to the company Douyin had 600 million daily active users last August and people are spending a lot of time on these apps.

ByteDance’s other apps, such as the newsfeed app Jinri Toutiao, accounted for 15.8% of users’ time spent on major apps in China at the end of last year, compared with 12.7% a year earlier, taking share from companies like Tencent and Baidu, according to data firm QuestMobile.

ByteDance has disrupted China’s online advertising market in recent years as its viral apps have drawn ad dollars away from traditional players like Baidu and Weibo. Tencent is still way ahead in games, but it may need to pay closer attention lest it finds itself next in line.

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