Inside Tencent's ambition to create a Triple A console game - TechCrunch

Tencent, China’s largest social networking and video game company, has not really been able to expand its popular products into the Western mainstream. The giant’s international expansion has largely been achieved by investing in companies outside of China, but it is now increasing its presence overseas through its most lucrative business, video games.

Over the past two years, Tencent has significantly expanded the footprint of two of its most successful game studios, TiMi Studios and Lightspeed Studios, around the world, hiring local executives to run these overseas outposts.

To find out how Tencent runs its international gaming branches and what its expectations are for them, we spoke with Steve Martin, general manager of Lightspeed’s Los Angeles outfit. In addition to its base in China, Lightspeed now has offices in the US, Canada, Singapore, the UK, France, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and the UAE.

IP ambitions

Tencent is recognized more for its ability to turn established PC games into popular mobile games than as an original developer. Lightspeed, for example, made its name by creating the mobile version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.

By May, PUBG Mobile had revenue $8 billion in global lifetime player spendingwhich makes it the second highest grossing mobile game in the world it falls behind TiMi’s Honor of Kings, which itself is considered Riot’s take on League of Legends.

Now Tencent wants players to remember it through its own intellectual property. Under the leadership of Martin, who was on the development team for Grand Theft Auto V and Red Dead Redemption 2 at Rockstar Games, the Lightspeed LA office is working on a AAA console game aimed at hardcore gamers worldwide.

Steve Martin, General Manager at Lightspeed LA

While Martin declined to share details about the game, he did say that it “will reflect cultures and sensibilities from around the world.” The game is scheduled to be completed in two to three years.

“What we’re working on is very ambitious,” the executive told TechCrunch.

The success of PUBG Mobile is largely due to the large number of Chinese players. Lightspeed LA is clearly looking for a more international audience.

The console market in China started to develop after that A 15-year ban that ended in 2015. But the industry that generates $2 billion in revenue in China last yearremains modest compared to mobile and PC games that bring in $45.5 billion in revenue in 2021according to industry researcher Niko Partners.

Autonomy

Tencent is known for its idle management approach to its companies with a portfolio of gamesallowing them to operate autonomously while providing support as they see fit.

He seems to be saving the book for his in-house studios abroad. While Lightspeed LA gets access to technical and operational support from Tencent’s headquarters in Shenzhen, in terms of creativity, everything is done in the 83-employee LA office, which will eventually expand to a team of 200, Martin said.

After a decade at Rockstar, the gaming veteran joined Tencent because “there aren’t that many big publishers that give this level of creativity.”

Many of Tencent’s executives, including CEO Pony Ma and President Martin Lau, are known gamers. “When we talk about games with the guide, it’s always about what games we love. I’ve had executives who don’t play games at all,” Martin said.

Rather than having a single mastermind dictating most of the studio’s decisions, Martin leads a collective of directors across disciplines, from creative and animation to technical functions. For example, when the studio is choosing a soundtrack, the top leaders will discuss the options, but the decision rests with the audio director. This structure also removes the obstacles of 700 people asking questions of one boss, Martin suggested.

“We want people to feel ownership of the game.”

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