Douyin and TikTok owner Bytedance has been on a hiring spree for talent to build its own mobile game division as its readies for its first foray into hardcore games, Bloomberg reported.

Why it matters: Bytedance is preparing to grab a share of China’s mobile games market, a highly profitable and competitive sector dominated by major companies including Tencent and NetEase.

  • Tencent is the biggest player in video games, accounting for 55.8% of China’s total mobile game revenue in the third quarter of 2019, while second-ranked Netease earned 17.3%, according to market research firm Gamma Data.

Details: Bytedance has built a team exceeding 1,000 people over the past few months, the report said.

  • Most of the company’s game development personnel are based in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, and Hangzhou, with the Hangzhou team consisting primarily of veterans from Netease’s studio Pangu Game, which was merged with NetEase’s Leihuo department in late 2018, according to a LatePost report.
  • The company has also been purchasing exclusive rights to distribute titles in China, such as two mobile games based on the popular Japanese comic series, “One Piece,” a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) title, and several massively multiplayer online (MMO) games, LatePost reported.
  • Bytedance’s first two non-casual games will be released in spring and will target both the domestic and overseas markets, according to Bloomberg.

Context: As the biggest player in China’s gaming landscape, Tencent has been wary of Bytedance’s move and its potential to leverage traffic from Douyin and Jinri Toutiao to boost gaming users, the LatePost report said.

  • In 2019, Bytedance’s Shenzhen team tried and failed to poach a senior executive from Tencent to build a team for shooter game development.
  • Tencent’s TiMi studios, which developed MOBA title “Honour of Kings” and the recent hit “Call of Duty: Mobile,” is looking to triple its headcount in the US this year.
  • Call of Duty: Mobile was developed by TiMi studios and released by Activision Blizzard. The title earned recognition in Q4 2019 for having the second-best quarter for any mobile game by download count, led only by Pokémon GO, according to analytics firm Sensor Tower.
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Tony Xu

Tony Xu is Shanghai-based tech reporter. Connect with him via e-mail:

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