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Tencent taking global Honor of Kings as China continues to block its new releases

Regulators approve new title from Genshin Impact developer MiHoYo, but Tencent and rival Netease have not received a publishing licence in 11 months

Chinese giant Tencent is bringing its flagship title to global markets as it attempts to offset the increasing restrictions and limited growth of its home market.

The company announced Honor of Kings will be "rolling out... to global gamers by the end of the year" via Level Infinite, the publishing label Tencent established back in December.

There will be closed beta tests in the coming months, starting in July.

The news comes as the South China Morning Post reports that Tencent has once again been left out of the latest wave of regulator approvals for publishing licences.

The Chinese government mandates that all titles released in the market require a publishing licence, although regulators froze the approvals process for nine months -- the second time this has occurred.

A first batch of 45 games were approved for release in April, with another 60 granted a licence on Tuesday. The latter included Keqier Frontier, a new title from Genshin Impact developer MiHoYo, and Perfect World Games' Black Cat Anecdote Society.

The approval of just 105 games so far this year is a marked decline when compared to 2017, where regulators approved more than 9,000 games for release in China over the course of the year.

None of the approval games were submitted by Tencent or its rival NetEase. Both companies have been waiting 11 months for any of their upcoming games to be given the green light.

In its most recent financial results, Tencent reported revenues from domestic games, led by Honor of Kings, dipped 1% to $4.9 billion. These account for 24% of the internet firm's total quarterly revenues.

However, the company saw 4% growth in revenues from games outside China at $1.6 billion -- 8% of total quarterly revenues. Tencent no doubt hopes to boost this further and offset the limitations of its home market by bringing its top title to global markets.

This is not the first time the company has attempted this, though. In 2017, Tencent launched Arena of Valor, an international edition of Honor of Kings, with the aim of recreating its success overseas and taking on Western hits like League of Legends (developed by Riot Games, which is wholly owned by Tencent).

The game generated $15 million in its first year, although struggled to gain traction -- to the point where there were reports Tencent were planning to give up on the game just one year later.

Writing for GamesIndustry.biz in 2018, Mintegral's Jeff Sue explored why Arena of Valor struggled in America.

This is also not Tencent's first attempt to establish the Honor of Kings brand outside China. Back in November, the company announced its TiMi Studios Group is working on Honor of Kings: World, a AAA spin-off for consoles and PC.

The lack of new publishing licences for its domestic games is one of many challenges Tencent faces in its home market. The Chinese government has introduced several restrictions on gaming over the past year, including limiting young people to just three hours of play time per week for online games (one hour per day, Friday to Sunday).

Tencent specifically attributed the dip in domestic games revenues to the "direct and indirect effects" of these measures.

The publisher has been working hard over the years to comply with and even get ahead of such restrictions, introducing its time limits and ID checks for young players.

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James Batchelor

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James Batchelor is Editor-in-Chief at GamesIndustry.biz. He is based in Essex and has been a B2B games journalist since 2006