Sony Corp., via its subsidiary in the US, is investing $400million in cash for a 4.98 percent stake in Bilibili. Bilibili established its business as an anime and comics site, and has since expanded to other entertainment categories such as video game operation and a UGC streaming service. The platform has previously received investment from Tencent and Alibaba. Bilibili has a long-term partnership with Aniplex, Sony’s subsidiary, to operate Fate/Grand Order (FGO) in China, and the game accounted for 72% of Bilibili’s games business revenue in 2019. Aniplex established its China branch in early 2019 to further explore the value of its IP.
Bilibili consolidates its partnership with Aniplex to roll out more IP-adapted titles
FGO is the main revenue contributor for Bilibili, but the game is entering the end of its lifecycle. As such, the company is also looking for other highly-anticipated game titles to diversify revenue sources. The receipt of Sony investment gives Bilibili priority access to the licensing of Aniplex’s upcoming mobile games, and the chance to co-develop IP-adapted titles. Additionally, Bilibili intends to reduce its revenue reliance on games. Sony’s investment therefore suggests future cooperation in the areas of music, anime production and live streaming, which is in line with Bilibili’s strategy to balance its revenue streams.
In 2019, Bilibili’s monthly subscribers reached 8.8million driven by both games and professional user generated video clips, and the latter accounted for more than 90% of views. This brings high community engagement to the platform but also suggests shortfalls in licensing content compared to other big video streaming platforms. Securing support from Sony is expected to increase licensing content for Bilibili and thus to consolidate its presence in the highly competitive video streaming market.
Sony is exploring the Chinese online gaming market beyond the console platform
Bilibili is a platform with a large user base formed by "Generation Z", and is attracting investment from most internet companies; namely Tencent and Alibaba, who value the sizable audience. Leveraging such a user base, Bilibili could easily enter the esports video-streaming, anime production and game publishing businesses, whose major audiences are "Generation Z". Investing in Bilibili also allows Sony Corp. to access wider demographic, and thus extend its gaming business beyond hardcore gamers.
This is not the first investment from Sony into Chinese online gaming companies: iDreamsky received US$5million from Sony Corp. before its IPO. Also, Sony introduced the China Hero Project to fund small Chinese developers for its Playstation platforms. Exploring the Chinese market involves not only the introduction of well-known titles, but also the creation of partnerships with local indie developers. Bilibili, with experience in mobile games and the ACG industry, could support Sony Corp. both in games development and from a distribution perspective. IP usage will represent the core of the partnership at this stage, via Aniplex’s business.