Tencent plans to build a platform for independent designers to contribute emoticon designs, promising to share future revenues generated from QQ IM or mobile apps with them. The company will share 40%, 50% or 70% with designers, depending on the monthly sales of a series of emoticons — Tencent takes 30% if the monthly sales is under 20,000 yuan and takes 60% if it can generate more than 100,000 yuan per month.

Tencent said they had signed contracts with more than 200 animation studios, expecting them to design emoticons for its users.

Thanks to Line, a mobile messaging app developed by a Korean company, who has successfully monetized a large user base starting from paid emoicons, a number of mobile messaging/ social apps in Asia added a me-too emoticon market to their services; that includes Chinese mobile social app Momo and Tencent’s WeChat and Mobile QQ.

Tencent, however, isn’t a tiro in emoticon or virtual item in general. QQ IM has been offering emoticons since 2003, with some being for free and the rest only available for QQ membership subscribers — it charges ten yuan per month (less than two dollars) for a variety of virtual items or premium services.

QQ Show, which sells virtual items to QQ IM users to use as avatars or decorations in the background, was one of the company’s first revenue streams.

Now it seems the good times for emoticon/virtual avatar business come again. It can be even better thanks to the wide adoption of smartphones and the convenience of mobile payments. Direct payments service has been available on WeChat since the August launch of the 5.0 version. Mobile QQ users couldn’t purchase paid emoticons until September.

Four months before the release of WeChat emoticon market, Tencent first launched one for QQ IM users on PC. While WeChat users can only buy separate emoticons, Mobile QQ will still include a wide range of emoticons in the membership subscription.

QQ Emoticon Market
QQ Emoticon Market

Since the launch of those emoticon markets, special series for movies or online games have been rolled out. Tencent expects third parties to design more creative ones by leveraging smartphone capabilities. It is said that some of the upcoming emoticons will be able to speak.

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com

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