PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds mobile game, PUGB Mobile, now has 50 million users outside of China, making it not only the world’s most popular mobile game, but – combined with its Chinese audience – its now also the world’s highest-grossing mobile game, too, generating $146 million in revenue just last month alone.
Now boasting more than 400 million downloads, PUBG Mobile has 50 million daily active users – almost double what it had seven months (thanks, GI.biz). Although it is free-to-play, the mobile game sells a number of cosmetic in-app items, chiefly skins and clothing items.
PUBG Mobile launched internationally in March 2018 but after increasing challenges with Chinese governmental regulations regarding the gaming industry, PUBG Mobile – which should have been a huge moneyspinner for Tencent in China – found its in-app purchases blocked.
Tencent has now released a clone game called Game for Peace and while it plays in almost exactly the same way, changes to curtail violence and promote patriotism now mean the game can be successfully monetised.
According to a report by Sensor Tower and The Financial Times (paywall), the rebrand this has boosted the game’s income, netting the publisher $14 million in its opening three days on iOS. Chinese brokerage Great Wall Securities further adds that while PUBG Mobile itself generated $76 million in revenue last month, Game For Peace – which is only marketed in China – generated $70 million on top of that, making it the world’s most profitable game on mobile in May.
After several months of uncertainty and a ban on video game approvals, an official at the Chinese Communist Party’s propaganda department confirmed in January the new regulator has completed reviews on the first batch of games, but the lengthy ban had a significant impact on games industry fortunes. One of China’s biggest gaming companies, Tencent, reportedly cut its marketing budget following a market slowdown driven by the regulatory disruption in China. While still a “strongly profitable” company, analysts projected the Chinese company’s “total debt has soared to a record $26 billion”, and expected the company to reveal its slowest growth in years when it reports on its earnings.
Consequently, Tencent announced restructured for the first time in six years following the challenges dealing with Chinese governmental regulations for the gaming industry. The megacorp was hit with a fall in profits for the first time in 13 years owing to the very same Chinese regulatory issues that have pushed the decision to restructure.
Epic Games Store has also recently launched in China, “quietly unlocked” its digital PC storefront earlier this month and making almost all of its games available to purchase in mainland China. While the site does not currently accept credit cards, it does accept payment via the online vendors WeChat and AliPay. As “a low-cost region”, prices of games like Borderlands 3 and Metro Exodus are “substantially lower than in North America”.