Mammoth Chinese internet and tech company Tencent is quietly preparing to roll-out esports support for mega-hit Arena of Valor in the coming weeks, a source inside Tencent tells Glixel. The plan is to launch the support in a lead-up to a $500,000 world cup tournament in LA this summer.
Tencent, which owns Riot Games and its esports phenomenon PC game League of Legends, is already in the process of rolling out an ecosystem for tournaments and professional players. That system would include support for regionalized and collegiate tournaments, according to the source, and would also support a variety of different types of tournaments, not just five-versus-five play.
“There will be a lot more of these popping up around America,” the source says. “Tencent is super committed to making esports on mobile as competitive and accessible as any other form of esports.”
Arena of Valor launched over the holidays in the United States after undergoing a limited release test-run in Europe. The game is a westernized version of Tencent’s Honor of Kings, a mobile MOBA in China that became the most downloaded app in the world on the iOS App Store in its first quarter of 2017. As of last summer, the game - which was released in China in 2015 - had more than 80 million daily active players and 200 million monthly active players. It is also considered the world’s most profitable game. Arena of Valor was announced for Nintendo Switch last year.
Speaking to Glixel last month, a Tencent employee who is not authorized to use his name, outlined the company’s support of the game in the west. He said that it was launched right before Christmas because the company wanted it to be seen as a surprising gift for players.
“Honor of Kings has been out in China for two to three years and it has been a tremendous success,” he said. “As soon as we saw this opportunity to bring it west, we did. We believe that the phenomenon could happen in other countries too.”
The game had a major overhaul, focusing almost entirely on the game’s heroes, he said, because Tencent didn’t believe Honor of King’s player-controlled heroes, which are based on Chinese folklore and mythology, would draw in Western gamers. So instead, the company built out characters they believed would be more intriguing to Western players. That includes both original characters and heroes from DC’s comic universe like Batman, Superman and the Joker. “That way we can make our characters more relatable,” he said. The game was also simplified slightly and the music made more international.
At the time, the employee said that Tencent had a big interest in introducing the game into esports, but declined to talk about any specific efforts that were underway.
Tencent’s approach to mobile esports matches it’s approach to bringing the often-complex gameplay of MOBA titles to the smartphone. The company essentially looked at the high learning curve and tricky controls, and then set about simplifying those things to lower the barrier of entry to new players and smartphone gamers.
Tencent’s deep interest in mobile games, ignoring their ownership of Riot Games and financial interest in game engine company and developer Epic Games, is driven by a core belief that mobile will be the future of all entertainment, the employee said.
“We definitely see the challenge,” he said. “But that’s a status quo we want to change, a perception we want to prove wrong.”