(Bloomberg) -- Tencent Holdings Ltd. has secured the rights to develop and publish the mobile edition of Bandai Namco Holdings Inc.’s Blue Protocol, betting on one of this year’s most anticipated multiplayer games to rekindle international growth, according to people familiar with the matter.
The world’s biggest games company has assembled a developer team for the project and holds the global distribution rights, the people said, asking not to be identified discussing private plans. The tie-up is an extension of Tencent’s proven formula of creating mobile content for franchises like Call of Duty and PUBG.
It’s not clear when Tencent will debut Blue Protocol’s mobile game, which could take a year or more for development. The PC edition of the game launched in Japan in June. A Bandai Namco spokesman declined to comment, while representatives for Tencent didn’t respond to requests for comment.
Blue Protocol is the latest large-budget online role-playing game that’s free to play and relies on in-game purchases for monetization. That’s proven a lucrative business model for established titles like League of Legends, from Tencent-owned Riot Games Inc. In Blue Protocol, anime characters wield blades and magic in a fantasy multiplayer world designed by the team behind Bandai Namco’s Tales series.
Read more: Tencent Targets Japan Anime, Manga to Jump-Start Global Growth
In its first week, the game attracted 600,000 players — including 200,000 simultaneous connections at its peak — marking the fastest launch for any Bandai Namco domestic PC online game, the Japanese firm said. Amazon.com Inc.’s games division is set to launch the game in Western markets next year across PC, PlayStation and Xbox platforms.
Tencent over recent years has made inroads in Japan’s guarded entertainment industry, scooping up slices of prominent local studios behind smash hits including Elden Ring and Nier: Automata. The Shenzhen-based company also launched mobile games based on established brands like Pokémon and Naruto for the Chinese and global markets.
Commonly abbreviated to ACG, Japan’s anime, comic book and gaming franchises are already popular in Tencent’s domestic market — and increasingly so in the West. The genre also influenced a generation of Chinese game makers, including the studio behind the seminal Genshin Impact.
China’s $40 billion gaming market — the world’s largest — shrank for the first time in 2022 during regulatory and economic turmoil. At the same time, Tencent barely grew its revenue, fighting a tough battle against fiercely competitive domestic rivals. Given its difficulties at home, Tencent is ramping up its gaming investments in places like Europe, Japan, and South Korea, hoping to leverage them into multimedia juggernauts that lock Chinese consumers into its ecosystem and bolster its global ambitions.
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