Tencent’s ‘PUBG Mobile’ becomes top-earning global game

Tencent’s battle-royale game PUBG Mobile has become the world’s top grossing mobile title, according to analysts, raking in $146m last month to overtake the Chinese internet group’s previous hit Honour of Kings. PUBG Mobile, where players battle to the death with virtual weapons, generated $76m in revenue last month on Apple and Google’s official app stores, while its Chinese version Game For Peace generated $70m, according to US analytics firm Sensor Tower.  That exceeded the $125m in revenue generated in the same period by Tencent’s previous hit, the fantasy role-playing game Honour of Kings, launched in 2015. The figures suggest Tencent’s core games business is recovering after a Chinese government freeze last year on approvals for new titles. Tencent’s mobile game revenues were Rmb21.2bn in the first quarter, down 2 per cent from the same period a year ago due to fewer new games releases. But the company has scored its first major hit outside China with PUBG Mobile, developed from a PC version by South Korean game developer Bluehole. It has 100m monthly users internationally, according to consultancy App Annie, making it the world’s most popular mobile game. Some analysts had thought the Chinese version of PUBG Mobile, which attracted 160m monthly users in the country last year, would lose appeal after Chinese censors required it to rebrand last month as Game For Peace, with less violence and more than one winner in each match, in order to gain a commercial licence.  But the core of the game’s content remained the same and it has retained most of its users, according to analysts at Great Wall Securities, a Chinese brokerage. They estimate the game is earning more than Rmb1.1bn ($159m) per month, including income from unofficial Android app stores, which are proliferating in China. Benjamin Wu of consultancy Pacific Epoch predicted that Game For Peace’s revenue in China would remain below Honour of Kings’ monthly income of around Rmb1.6bn in the second quarter of this year, although he said the title would lure players from Honour of Kings. Recommended Lex Tencent/online games: peace dividend However, other were more sanguine, projecting that Game for Peace’s revenue in China was catching up, with analyst Chenyu Cui of consultancy IHS Markit estimating that it was only 10 per cent below Honour of Kings’ last month.  Tencent has had several other lucrative titles approved by Beijing since the government resumed commercial game licensing late last year. That could boost its mobile game revenue to Rmb97bn for this year, implying 26 per cent growth from last year, according to investment bank Jefferies. Tencent drives traffic for its games through its popular social networking chat app WeChat and several app stores that it controls, raising the ire of some rivals. “Tencent is more of a platform company and we are more of a content company. We hope that competition will be fair. Don't sign contracts to block another company,” said Ethan Wang, head of government relations in China at Netease, the country’s second-biggest video games company by revenue. “In many countries, it is illegal to use monopoly status. There is only one company in China with such status,” he said. Tencent denies abusing its market power.