China’s Tencent has long dominated China’s huge gaming market, the biggest in the world. The company is focused on mobile gaming. However, until now the company hasn’t managed to translate that success into international markets. That’s changing and Tencent’s PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds has now seen a whopping 263 million downloads outside of China. The downloads data comes from app data service Sensor Tower.
PUBG Mobile, as the game is known by its players is a mobile game and its popularity is in part due to the fact that it runs well on even more basic Android smartphones. That’s led to a particular boom in popularity in India. The Indian market is of particular strategic importance to China’s biggest tech companies like Tencent and Alibaba because of its huge population and economic growth potential.
India’s population is expected to surpass that of China in the relatively near future, making it the most populous country in the world. It’s economic growth rate is also expected to surpass that of China over the next two to three decades. Economists believe Indian growth could pick up the global economic slack left by China’s inevitable slowdown after three decades powering the world economy.
A stronger international presence is of particular importance to Tencent currently against a tricky domestic backdrop. The Chinese authorities, concerned by the amount of time people are spending playing mobile and other video games, halted the issue of licenses for any new titles for a period last year. The move was a major blow to Tencent, which derives a majority of its income from gaming, hitting the company’s share price hard. Licenses are again being issued but regulators now have a significant backlog to work through.
However, it’s not proving all plain sailing in India either. Several cities in the north west Indian state of Gujarat, known for its conservatism, have banned the game on grounds that it is overly violent. While practically difficult to strictly enforce the ban, it’s still being treated seriously by Tencent which said in a statement:
“We were thus surprised to learn that local authorities in a few cities have decided to impose a ban on playing our game”.
“We are working to understand the legal basis of such bans, and hope we can have a constructive dialogue with relevant authorities to explain our objectives and that they withdraw the prohibition.”
Until recently, China’s technology companies have had little international influence. Their domestic market has been big enough to provide plenty of scope for huge growth. Language and cultural barriers have also meant apps that are hugely successful in China have not appealed to international audiences in the same way.
That is now beginning to change. ByteDance’s short video app TikTok has proven an international hit with over one billion downloads worldwide now and Chinese start-ups and larger technology companies are increasingly focused on cracking international markets. The business model of some is entirely based on securing overseas audiences. The biggest emerging markets are rapidly becoming battlegrounds between the U.S. and Chinese tech giants as they jostle for growth.