By Pei Li and Brenda Goh
BEIJING/SHANGHAI (Reuters) – China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd is working with its U.S. unit Riot Games to develop a mobile version of “League of Legends”, the world’s most popular desktop-based game, three sources with knowledge of the matter told Reuters.
Relations between Tencent and Riot have long been strained over how to best to capitalise on the game, in which players hack and slash their way through battle arenas. Riot rejected a Tencent proposal years ago to develop a mobile version, one of the sources said.
Tencent then developed a similar offering, “Honour of Kings”, which was launched in November 2015 and has become the world’s highest grossing multiplayer online battle arena game, although most of that revenue is garnered in China.
But in doing so, it created tensions with Riot which were further inflamed when Tencent launched an adaptation of “Honour of Kings”, called “Arena of Valor” for overseas markets in 2016 and 2017, sources have said. “Arena of Valor” has been regarded as a flop by some analysts after failing to click with Western gamers.
One of the sources said Tencent and Riot have been working on a mobile version of “League of Legends” for more than a year, although a separate source said it was unlikely to be launched in 2019.
The sources declined to be identified as details of the project were confidential. A spokesman for Tencent declined to comment. Representatives for Riot did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
While all three titles have similar gameplay and design albeit with different characters, “League of Legends” has the biggest reach and at nearly 10 years old, the longest history.
“League of Legends is like the World Cup whereas Honour of Kings is just the Asia Cup,” one of the sources said.
A mobile version would likely bring in more Asian players, who tend to prefer mobile-based games while Western gamers tend to prefer desktops or consoles for more sophisticated gameplay. It would also allow Tencent to organise more international competition between battle arena gaming enthusiasts.
League of Legends brought in $1.4 billion (£1.1 billion) in revenue last year, although that was down 21 percent from a year earlier, according data provider Statista.
It is the most popular core PC game worldwide ranked by number of unique users in a month, according to game tracker Newzoo. Its World Championship Finals was 2018’s biggest e-sports tournament by live hours watched across Twitch and YouTube Gaming, boasting 81.1 million hours watched.
(Reporting by Pei Li and Brenda Goh; Editing by Edwina Gibbs)