Chinese gaming giant Tencent Holdings Ltd (TCEHY) will launch its mega-hit smartphone game “Honor of Kings” in the EU and U.S. this year, a person familiar with the plans said, amid a backlash in China over its addictive features.
The game has roughly 55 million daily active users and analysts estimate its monthly revenue is more than 1 billion yuan ($147.09 million), making it the firm’s top-grossing game.
Tencent’s move looks like a response to being pressured to cut the number of hours that underage users can access the app, amid a wider campaign by the Chinese authorities to stamp out gaming behavior that it deems “harmful to the psychology of minors.”
The new bans restrict players under 12 to one hour of game play a day and limits users under 18 years to two hours.
China’s People’s Daily, the official mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, called the game “poison,” alluding to a Chinese gaming term used to describe addictive games. It called for the industry to be further regulated.
Tencent’s stock in New York has fallen by over 4 since the bans were announced on Monday.
The multi-player role-playing game is free, but allows users to purchase items to advance more quickly in the game.
The game’s launch in the EU and the U.S. marks its first attempt to bring the massively popular homegrown franchise to western markets. However, it’s unlikely to achieve the same kind of impact outside Tencent’s home market: the game is itself a Chinese adaptation of League of Legends, a game originally developed by U.S. based Riot Games (now owned by Tencent).
Tencent has previously acquired top-grossing foreign titles, including an $8.6 billion majority stake in “Clash of Clans” maker Supercell, but it is yet to export self-produced games of the same size to Western markets.
A Tencent spokeswoman said it currently had no timeline for the game’s expansion.
Honor of Kings is already available in markets in Asia including Taipei, Thailand and Hong Kong, as well as Turkey.