Esports events command plentiful attention
With the popularity of esports buoying both PC and mobile gaming in China, the traditional PC games publishers outside of Tencent and NetEase are playing catch-up by launching their own esports platforms as well as elaborating their MOBA-related game pipelines. China is so far the largest market for esports video, accounting for 57% of all viewing in 2016. The number of video streams delivered totaled 11.1 billion in China, compared to 2.7 billion in North America.
From this year's China Joy show, we can see that nearly all publishers are offering on-site esports events, to attract visitors as well as promoting their legacy or upcoming titles. Tencent is still the leading company in both the mobile and PC games markets, and intends to build a comprehensive ecosystem that includes games content, distribution, community, first-party tournaments, and broadcast platforms. On the PC side, Tencent’s Cross Fire and League of Legends dominate more than half of the esports market share, and their regular championship tournaments generate much gamer engagement and media exposure.
Compared to Tencent’s esports events, both NetEase and Perfect World - with Overwatch and Dota 2 - respectively, attract pro-gamers rather than casual players, which limits the just how much expansion the two companies may see in this segment.
In contrast to PC side (where Tencent is well positioned), other publishers have shown more confidence in mobile esports market. It’s true that Honor of Kings sparked great player interest in mobile esports, and contributed monthly gross revenue of around RMB 3 billion ($437 billion) to Tencent. But other publishers, such as Giant, are finding other ways of combining casual gameplay with esports. Giant will partner AliSports and Sheng Tian Internet Café to launch a series of online and offline esports championship, to extend the popularity of its sole mobile esports game – Battle of Balls. Also these esports events focus on a user’s social activity, more than a directly competitive aspect, which could help engage and retention certain users (article cont'd below).
Legacy games helped to prop the PC business
The Chinese PC online gaming market saw a slowing yearly increase of 2.6% in 2016, as major publishers divert more resources to mobile games adapted from PC-gaming IP. And thus the original PC titles are given less marketing support or fewer content updates. But during China Joy, we can still see that traditional PC publishers prefer to demonstrate their legacy PC games rather than newly-launched mobile titles. On the one hand, these publishers have licensed their mobile IP games to Tencent for operation, and any remaining mobile games tend to see weaker performance. On the other hand, it proves the lasting appeal of certain legacy games to loyal users. Although legacy PC games are losing users to mobile, they still have a valuable position at China Joy.
NetEase is the exception, as it introduced one of a highly-anticipated mobile title – Dawn of Titans, developed by Zynga, which indicates the company’s confidence in the game’s performance. In terms of mobile games, NetEase has also seen successful launches for IP such as Fantasy Westward Journey and Onmyoji, and the company is licensing some strong franchises from overseas, showing the company's extent of commitment to mobile.