In 2021, TikTok owner ByteDance acquired games developer and publisher Moonton in one of the industry’s biggest deals. Now, as 2023 comes to a close, ByteDance is believed to be considering selling up.
Past and future
Moonton is a Shanghai-based company best known for Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, a game that crossed the $500 million milestone back in 2020 before the studio was snapped up by TikTok’s owner.
In its time with ByteDance, Mobile Legends has launched its first NFT collection The Aspirants and received an ever-coveted distribution licence in China, though perhaps not as swiftly as ByteDance would have liked given the licence freeze that lasted almost nine months.
Moonton’s success under ByteDance hasn’t been limited to Mobile Legends, either. The studio won a defamation case against Tencent, launched a new tower defence RPG Watcher of Realms, and entered the US charts with the title in the summer.
Watcher of Realms may not have proven as successful as Mobile Legends yet, but even so it’s an unexpected move from ByteDance if it really is selling up, especially considering past intentions to grow in the video games space. Making such a huge purchase in Moonton reinforced those intentions, but selling the studio would be a move in the complete opposite direction.
Talks are reportedly still in early stages and a sale isn’t guaranteed, but ByteDance is supposedly considering the sale so that it can "focus resources on its core business". Among the potential buyers is said to be at least one Saudi firm.
Overall, it appears Moonton’s games haven’t performed as well as ByteDance hoped and the TikTok owner is looking to scale back as many companies are in today’s landscape or at least express a desire to shift their focus away from video games.