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League of Legends owner brings another action-RTS to China

As online games giant Tencent reveals that its total active user count now represents 65 percent of China's entire online market share, the company has picked up another Western game.
As online games giant Tencent revealed today that its total active user count now represents 65 percent of China's entire online market share, the company has picked up another Western game to bring to the Chinese market. Smite, the MOBA game from Georgia-based Tribes: Ascend developer Hi-Rez Studios, will now also be published worldwide through Tencent. The game, which is currently free-to-play in the U.S. and Europe, will soon see a release in China as part of this deal. Tencent has a keen interest in the free-to-play action RTS (a.k.a. multiplayer online battle arena "MOBA") space. It acquired leading MOBA developer Riot Games, developer of League of Legends, for $400 million in 2011. "It's encouraging that there's a big audience [in China] for free-to-play PC online games," Hi-Rez COO Todd Harris told me, "which is the sort of thing we've been doing in Western markets since we started." "Obviously the game's got to resonate with their audience," he continued, "and just like here, I think it's still very much a hit-driven business. But even if you're a niche title, the population playing it in China can be bigger than it would be here." Tencent is a Chinese online game giant with a far reach. It has partnered with U.S.-based companies including Activision, Epic Games, 2K Sports and Crytek. By the end of 2012, Tencent's QQ Game portal had 461 million active users, and seven separate online games that each see more than 1 million concurrent users. Notably, this makes up 65 percent of China's online market share -- this compares to the reported 33.7 percent last May. The MOBA space in particular expanded rapidly in China last year, growing in player numbers by 70 percent year-over-year -- which is why Tencent has chosen to pick up another MOBA for its roster. As part of the deal, Hi-Rez will aim to maintain a single version of Smite, which will then be passed along for localization, and released two weeks to a month later in China -- therefore the Chinese release will always be slightly behind in terms of updates. A closed beta in China is planned for October. Tencent will also have the opportunity to localize and publish the game in territories like Korea, Russia and Brazil once the Chinese edition is released. Smite itself is proving formidable in the West. Since launching as an open beta last year, the game has seen continous concurrent user growth, and now has over 2 million registered users. On Twitch.TV, it's the 13th most watched game in Western territories across all genres and platforms.

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