Can Luxury Tap China’s Mobile Gaming Expansion?

What Happened: A group of 37 Chinese mobile games earned more than $100 million in overseas markets during 2020, and the mobile version of the Tencent-backed Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, known as PUBG, was first choice. The list of gaming’s winners, which totaled a combined revenue of $1.06 billion, is up 37 percent compared to the same period last year. The role-playing Genshin Impact from miHoYo set a new monthly revenue record for Chinese mobile games in the global market with $160 million, beating the previous title holder PUBG Mobile’s $90 million in 2019. The most popular overseas market for Chinese games is now Japan, which has surpassed the US.

Jing Take: China’s mobile games industry is worth 25 percent of the global total today and has seen healthy growth during COVID-19. The China Mobile Gaming Report 2020 forecasts that mobile and PC game revenue in China will surpass $46.7 billion by 2024. Now, China’s importance in the global market hinges not on scale and volume, but, given the counutry’s emphasis on promoting gaming culture and technological connectedness, on design innovation and player psychology too.

Cosplayers at Genshin Impact’s exhibition booth at the 2020 Firefly Animation Game Carnival. Photo: Genshin Impact’s Weibo

Games based on pillars of Chinese culture, for example community and social activity, are proving popular and have helped ease a sense of isolation during the pandemic. Titles such as PUBG and Call of Duty — both developed by communications conglomerate Tencent — are increasingly connecting with Gen-Z demographics in the US alongside China. The numbers behind Genshin Impact indicate that even the Western nerds are cosplaying (the role-play pastime currently wooing Chinese Gen Zers). A year on from the initial outbreak of COVID-19, few countries are back to normal levels of socializing, given the slippery ability the virus has to infect and mutate. The upside of extended lockdowns means companies have more opportunities to advertise and connect with consumers; luxury has been taking note (Burberry has already been active in the field and recently partnered with Honor of Kings, another Tencent offering). That too means more chances for monopolies like Tencent to consolidate market share — both inside and outside the country.

The Jing Take reports on a piece of the leading news and presents our editorial team’s analysis of the key implications for the luxury industry. In the recurring column, we analyze everything from product drops and mergers to heated debate sprouting on Chinese social media.


Market Analysis, Tech