More than a year after its international launch, Tencent Holdings’ Call of Duty: Mobile is finally getting its release in China, with nearly 50 million preregistered users and the endorsement of king of Chinese pop Jay Chou.
Licensed by Activision Blizzard and developed by Tencent, Call of Duty: Mobile was officially available in the world’s biggest gaming market on Tuesday via a public beta test. Already an international gaming sensation since its global launch on October 1 last year, Call of Duty: Mobile only secured release approval from the Chinese government in August, given the country’s strict media regulation policies.
The demand for Call of Duty: Mobile’s launch in China appears to be enormous. Before the game’s release on Tuesday, close to 50 million users had preregistered, according to the game’s website. To further build momentum for the roll out, Tencent recruited the endorsement of popular Taiwanese singer Jay Chou, who has also starred in Hollywood movies such as The Green Hornet and Now You See Me 2.
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Analysts are bullish about the earning potential of the game. Call of Duty: Mobile generated close to US$500 million in player spending in its first year, making it the 22nd most profitable mobile game in the world during that time, according to a new report from app tracking firm Sensor Tower.
In June, Sensor Tower predicted that after its China release the game could surpass Tencent’s own PUBG Mobile to become the world’s biggest mobile title. Call of Duty: Mobile reached the 250 million downloads milestone faster than PUBG Mobile.
Daniel Ahmad, senior analyst at game consultancy Niko Partner, said the game’s China release is likely to be hugely successful.
“Tencent’s deep understanding of the Chinese game market paired with its overseas operation of Call of Duty: Mobile for the past year will help the game succeed when it launches in China this year,” he said. “Operating the Call of Duty IP across multiple platforms has allowed Activision to reach a much broader audience and the release of the mobile version has also led to an increase in players and revenue from the console and PC games.”
The e-sports ecosystem for the title is already starting to ramp up in China with both FPX and EDG confirming that they plan to field e-sports teams, according to Ahmad. Tencent will be looking to replicate the success of the Peacekeeper Elite League with Call of Duty: Mobile e-sports, and already has experience with such tournaments overseas, he added.
Craig Chapple, mobile insights strategist at Sensor Tower, anticipated the success of the game in a report published this month.
“It will follow in the footsteps of another extremely successful mobile shooter in China, Game For Peace, the localised version of PUBG Mobile which is also published and developed by Tencent,” Chapple wrote. Game For Peace is often referred to by its other Chinese name Peacekeeper Elite.
According to Niko Partners, mobile and PC games revenue in China hit US$33.1 billion in 2019 and is projected to pass US$46.7 billion by 2024. China had 685 million gamers in 2019, and that is expected to rise to 772 million by 2024, with 637 million of those playing games on mobile devices. That means China already accounts for more than 25 per cent of the world’s mobile games market.
Outside China, the US was the game’s top revenue-earning country, with players there spending about US$215 million, while Japan and Germany took second and third place, according to Chapple.
“I think Call of Duty: Mobile may not perform as well in China as it does in the West...because Call of Duty likely does not have as many fans in China,” said Liao Xuhua, gaming analyst at Beijing-based Analysys International. “The competitive aspect of Call of Duty: Mobile is very high and it appears that Chinese gamers prefer games which are more social.”
Call of Duty: Mobile had generated close to 270 million downloads outside China as of the beginning of this month. The game saw 50 million downloads in the US alone in its first year.
“It’s a testament to the power of the Call of Duty IP and its ability to translate to mobile, along with the successful partnership between the US-based Activision and China-based Tencent,” Chapple said.
While Tencent is reaping success with its latest title, the company’s business ties with US-based gaming companies are under scrutiny amid tense China-US relations. Tencent’s US$22 billion in US assets, including a 5 per cent stake in Activision Blizzard, could be at risk of forced divestment should tensions continue to rise, according to an earlier Bloomberg Intelligence report.
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