2022 was a damaging year for the Chinese games industry. One that has led to many companies taking bold new measures to boost profits.
Between harsh regulatory crackdowns, pandemic restrictions and the aftershocks of a global game slump, the previously unstoppable juggernaut that was the Chinese mobile game industry took severe blows last year. Ones which many Chinese companies will be hoping to rectify throughout 2023.
Whereas some companies such as Netease are buckling down and warning that they don’t expect their international investments to pay off for a few years, some like Tencent are mining their bevy of Chinese-only titles for new releases. Many of these are licensed games, and the sudden influx offers some interesting opportunities for ready-made success, if these games take hold.
Street Fighter Duel
The first of the crop of new games, Street Fighter: Duel is well-placed to take advantage of the hotly anticipated release of the franchise’s new instalment, Street Fighter 6, later this year. A relatively innocuous RPG game featuring the iconic Street Fighter characters, the game was a relative curiosity for international players due to its exclusivity and the game’s style and roster being tied to the then-new Street Fighter IV instalment.
However, as time has gone on and the game has diverged in style from the main series Tencent has made up the shortfall in the roster by introducing a bevy of original characters to the game. Its release overseas will be a test as to whether the game’s intriguing art and mechanics can prove it to be a success, or if it will remain a curiosity to players.
It will also be a test for Crunchyroll Games, a spin-off from the pioneering anime streaming site that recently acquired competitor Funimation, who are publishing the game in partnership with Tencent.
Devil May Cry: Peak of Combat
Another title receiving a European release, this one is interesting because it diverges from more popular genres, Devil May Cry: Peak of Combat is based on the series of the same name. DMC, as it’s also known, popularised the “character action” and “spectacle fighter” sub-genre of action games. With stylish combos and moves being central to the game’s appeal, which is likely what led to Peak of Combat imitating the gameplay directly - by fully recreating the 3D brawling style - rather than adapting it into another genre such as RPG or gacha.
This decision is likely going to please fans, however it does push Devil May Cry: Peak of Combat into a particular niche. Which means that it may be the biggest gamble in Tencent’s crop of releases. If the game proves to be unpopular with fans, it’ll have to hope that it can bring in new players intrigued by the unusual genre.
Honor of Kings
If DMC: Peak of Combat is the biggest gamble for the company, then Honor of Kings could be the biggest competitor Tencent has yet brought into the mobile gaming space yet. A MOBA that holds the accolade of being possibly the most popular game (by player count) in the world, the initial rollout is scheduled to come to Brazil. Since Brazil boasts of a diverse audience on PC, console and mobile, it’s a good testing ground to see how popular the game can become in a primarily cross-platform environment.
But it also may bring Tencent into conflict with one of their primary investments, Riot Games. And although we’re unlikely to see the kind of verbal fisticuffs that Netease and Blizzard traded, Tencent will likely be wary of competing against their own investment by bringing another popular MOBA onto the scene. Conversely, they may be hoping to bring in other players who want something other than League of Legends, but of a similar pedigree.
As this list expands, it’ll be an important test for Tencent as they bring a variety of new games to the rest of the world. The Chinese marketplace has always been a unique entity, but as it recovers from a damaging year, we may get the chance to see if titles developed specifically for it can succeed on the world stage.