Will the fem­i­nine touch make King po­tent in US?

Fe­male gamers hold key to Ten­cent’s over­seas re­lease of its prof­itable game

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS -

BEI­JING — When it comes to con­vert­ing women to gam­ing, China’s Ten­cent Hold­ings Ltd might teach the US mar­ket a thing or two.

Its King of Glory, which has gen­er­ated suc­cess, con­tro­versy and reg­u­la­tor scru­tiny in China, has not only bro­ken sales records but the gen­der bar­rier, and may well do an en­core in the US.

It be­longs to a genre typ­i­cally fa­vored by male play­ers, but King of Glory has be­come pop­u­lar even among fe­male play­ers, typ­i­cally the un­der-30 gen­er­a­tion.

De­spite the male ref­er­ence in its ti­tle, King of Glory’s abil­ity to en­gage the long-ne­glected con­stituency of fe­male gamers has buoyed Ten­cent.

It is now Ten­cent’s most prof­itable mo­bile game ever, hav­ing raked in more than 5.5 bil­lion yuan ($818.15 mil­lion) in rev­enue in the first quar­ter of this year, ac­cord­ing to an es­ti­mate of Gamma Data Corp, a Chi­nese gam­ing in­dus­try data­base.

An­other rea­son for the suc­cess of King of Glory is Ten­cent’s dom­i­nance over Chi­nese so­cial me­dia through its all-in­one killer app WeChat, which boasts 870 mil­lion users a month in China alone, ac­cord­ing to tech me­dia com­pany PingWest.

WeChat helped fun­nel a di­verse au­di­ence to King of Glory, which has a broader pal­ette of playable char­ac­ters than most games of its ilk.

Fe­male play­ers ac­counted for 54 per­cent of the 200 mil­lion gamers as of May, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent re­port by Chi­nese mo­bile data in­tel­li­gence firm Jiguang.

Zhang Tian­jiao, 26, a civil ser­vant based in Wuhan, Hubei province in Cen­tral China, spends an av­er­age one hour a day to bat­tle in the on­line fan­tasy block­buster.

Zhang, whose fa­vorite char­ac­ters in­clude Cai Wenji, an im­age based on fa­mous Chi­nese po­et­ess Cai Yan, started play­ing the game from April, af­ter her room­mate in­vited her to check it out. She now uses the game to fur­ther ex­pand her so­cial net­work on­line.

“It is a new type of so­cial net­work­ing,” she said. “We all love play­ing and tak­ing the game face to face or on WeChat. And it’s a good way to keep in touch with friends and make new ones on so­cial net­works.”

Agreed Dong Zhen, in­ter­ac­tive en­ter­tain­ment an­a­lyst at in­ter­net con­sul­tancy Analysys in Bei­jing. “A ma­jor fac­tor in its (King of Glory’s) suc­cess is the bil­lion-plus users on Ten­cent’s so­cial net­work­ing plat­forms WeChat and QQ. For smart­phone users, it helps them to kill spare time.”

King of Glory’s mass ap­peal will be put to test again as Ten­cent pre­pares to re­lease it in the United States, a mar­ket dom­i­nated by mo­bile game pow­er­houses such as Activision Bliz­zard Inc and where WeChat is largely non-ex­is­tent.

While dom­i­nant on its home turf, Ten­cent has yet to demon­strate an abil­ity to woo for­eign au­di­ences.

Its big­gest over­seas hits — Riot Games Inc’s League of Leg­ends and Su­per­cell Oy’s Clash of Clans among them — were ac­quired at a steep cost. Those very same ac­qui­si­tions, how­ever, handed Ten­cent a ma­jor global plat­form that could help its big­gest in-house ti­tle con­nect with for­eign gamers.

Ten­cent has cer­tainly clicked with the home crowd. King of Glory’s cock­tail of so­cial me­dia and gam­ing (al­low­ing users, for in­stance, to add ac­tual friends) won it some 108 mil­lion fe­male play­ers, ac­cord­ing to Jiguang.

That fe­males out­num­ber men in a vi­o­lence-laden game is re­mark­able, for an in­dus­try no­to­ri­ous for its fraught re­la­tion­ship with women.

From the 2015 Gamer­gate ha­rass­ment cam­paign to crit­i­cism of gra­tu­itous sex­u­al­iza­tion in sta­ples like Grand Theft Auto, girl gamers have sel­dom felt com­pletely com­fort­able in the testos­terone-fu­eled world.

While women are the ma­jor­ity in ca­sual fare such as Candy Crush Saga, they are dis­tinctly un­der-rep­re­sented in hard­core and mid-core ti­tles.

King of Glory is an adap­tion of the bet­ter-known League of Leg­ends in which play­ers, usu­ally in teams of five, hack and slash their way through bat­tle are­nas. It is free to down­load but gen­er­ates rev­enue from users who buy up­grades to im­prove their odds in bat­tle.

Be­cause a sin­gle ses­sion only lasts about 20 min­utes, the game de­mands less com­mit­ment from its play­ers, who can pol­ish off rounds in frag­mented time slots. That in turn low­ers the en­try bar­ri­ers for fe­male users who’ve had scant ex­po­sure to mid- or hard-core games, said Marie Sun, a Shen­zhen-based an­a­lyst at Morn­ingstar In­vest­ment Ser­vice.

A global mar­ket re­port by re­search group New­zoo said mo­bile gam­ing is ex­pected to gen­er­ate $46.1 bil­lion this year, ac­count­ing for 42 per­cent of all gam­ing rev­enue.

By 2020, mo­bile gam­ing is pre­dicted to ac­count for 50 per­cent of the mar­ket. And gam­ing in China is also pro­jected to gen­er­ate $27.5 bil­lion with most of it com­ing from the mo­bile mar­ket.

“The rapidly grow­ing mo­bile gam­ing sec­tor in China is fu­eled by a large user base, and this mar­ket will con­tinue to grow,” said Teng Hua, founder of Gamma Data.

The rapidly grow­ing mo­bile gam­ing sec­tor in China is fu­eled by a large user base ...”

founder of Gamma Data


Cos­play­ers re­sem­bling char­ac­ters from King of Glory per­form at a pro­vin­cial-level com­pe­ti­tion in Nan­jing, Jiangsu province.

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