At its five-year anniversary gala graced by celebrities, esports stars and orchestras, Tencent’s mobile game Honor of Kings said it has crossed 100 million daily active users. The title has not only broken user records but generated other unprecedented accomplishments along the way.
For one, it consistently ranks among the top-grossing mobile games worldwide, jostling with PUBG Mobile made by another Tencent studio Lightspeed & Quantum — gaming has long been the cash cow for Tencent, better known for its WeChat messenger. The brain behind Honor of Kings is TiMi Studios, which ramped up hiring in the U.S. this year to further global expansion.
The game is credited for popularizing the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) category in China using clever designs like short sessions, friendly controls, esports integration, and social networking leverage, as games analyst Daniel Ahmad pointed out. The title has an unusually high female player base — around 50% — for a genre dominated by males.
Though not always seen as an original creator, Tencent pioneers monetization models for mobile games and can be Western studios’ sought-after partner. To name one, it helped develop the mobile version of Activision’s Call of Duty, which surpassed 250 million downloads in June.
Controversy has also arisen amid Honor of Kings’ fervor. A state newspaper chastised it for hooking young users and misrepresenting historical events. Tencent has since tightened age verification checks for players, now standard practice in China’s gaming industry.
TiMi unveiled its milestone at a time when Riot Games is testing a mobile version of League of Legends, widely seen as the desktop blockbuster that had inspired Honor of Kings in the first place. The overseas edition of Honor of Kings, called Arena of Valor, has had limited success outside Asia. It now comes the time for Riot, fully acquired by Tencent in 2015, to test its own interpretation, Wild Rift. TiMi told TechCrunch that it’s not involved in the development process of Riot’s new mobile title.
As part of the announcement, TiMi also revealed that it’s capitalizing on Honor of Kings for IP derivative works, including two new games in unspecified new genres, an anime, and a TV series.
“There is still plenty of room to further grow and develop the Honor of Kings IP in China,” Li Min, the game’s director and general manager of TiMi Studios, told TechCrunch. “I want to see it take on a life of its own and continue to resonate with and thrive among players for generations to come.”
“One of our great successes has been capturing historic moments, which were otherwise mostly irrelevant to young people today, and fuse them with modern aesthetics to bring them to life in Honor of Kings,” he added.
The story was updated on November 2, 2020 with comments from TiMi Studios.