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Tencent Holdings Ltd. (Chinese: 腾讯; pinyin: Téngxùn) is a Chinese multinational conglomerate holding company founded in 1998, whose subsidiaries specialize in various Internet-related services and products, entertainment, artificial intelligence and technology both in China and globally.
Tencent controls hundreds of subsidiaries and associates in numerous industries and areas, creating a broad portfolio of ownerships and investments across a diverse range of businesses including search engines, e-commerce, retail, video gaming, real estate, software, virtual reality, ride-sharing, banking, financial services, financial technology, consumer technology, computer technology, automobile, film production, movie ticketing, music production, space technology, natural resources, smartphones, big data, agriculture, medical services, cloud computing, social media, IT, advertising, streaming media, artificial intelligence, robotics, UAVs, food delivery, courier services, e-book, internet services, education and renewable energy.
Other than their main gaming division; Tencent Games, Tencent Holdings has invested into a number of non-Chinese game publishers and developers since around 2011, ranging from minority shares to full control of the company. Through these investments, Tencent is considered the largest video game company in the world since March 2018. As of 2020, it was the 2nd largest company in China (after Alibaba Group), and 7th largest company in the world.
This page will focus on Tencent's involvement in the gaming industry.
Why They Suck
- Tencent is infamous for copying tons of products from other companies (including its own subsidiaries) and branding them as their own, most notably several MOBA games created under the brand Tencent Games. Examples include Honor of Kings (known as one of the most popular and third highest-grossing video games of all time after Nexon's Dungeon & Fighter Online and Rockstar/Take-Two's Grand Theft Auto V/Grand Theft Auto Online, despite being released only in the Chinese market in 2015) and its international version Arena of Valor, which directly copy several elements from then semi-independent Riot Games' League of Legends.
- Tencent's CEO, Ma Huateng, has responded to fellow Chinese tech companies' criticism regarding this topic that "[To] copy is not evil."  The sheer hypocrisy in this statement is that in 2018, Tencent and the now fully-owned Riot Games have filed a lawsuit against Shanghai Moonton (the developer of Mobile Legends: Bang Bang) for copyright infringement on League of Legends, which Tencent copied 3 years earlier.
- Some of the features in their games were directly plagiarized from other companies, such as a UI in Code Syn that is crudely modified from Ubisoft's Tom Clancy's The Division 2's UI.
- Speaking of copying, they also force their gaming divisions (such as Supercell and Glu - the latter are currently undergoing transition to EA after buyout deals in Febuary 2021) to make numerous reskins of their specialized genres (city building strategy and rail shooters, respectively).
- Tencent is known as the pioneer of the "Games as a Service" model. They mainly focused on online-only games with a lot of mostly overpriced microtransactions, tacked on in several different formats. Some champion skins in their MOBA games cost up to $40.
- Valorant, by Tencent's Riot Games, features a gun skin set named Elderflame with a base price tag of $100 (which is fairly expensive). However, Tencent has created a skin of a skin system by selling "visual upgrades" of the Elderflame skin which costs $192 to fully upgrade all weapons, and $292 in total.
- In Call of Duty: Mobile, Tencent rigged the in-game loot drops to not drop "grand prizes" (such as time-limited guns and character skins) until the player has opened the loot drops for a fixed amount of time (mostly 10 to 20 times).
- They often create knockoff games to capitalize on fads, like the aforementioned Code Syn, which is a knockoff of Cyberpunk 2077 with plastic-looking characters and a generic-looking world.
- They are infamous for taking over several companies (both big and small) for various purposes, such as;
- Epic Games: "partially" taken over in 2012 after they signed a "support" agreement to aid Epic during their transition into "games as services" business model. Epic later turned into one of Tencent's flagships, focused on milking money from the Unreal Engine license, Fortnite, and their game store.
- Grinding Gear Games: bought out by Tencent in May 2018 to milk their online game Path of Exile.
- Krafton: taken over a few months after suing Epic Games for "copying" PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds in order to eliminate Fortnite's main competitor and bring them to their side.
- Marvelous: partially acquired in Febuary 2020, mainly to use Marvelous' anime division to produce adaptations of Chinese manhua (comic books) and milk Marvelous's Story of Seasons games.
- They usually acquire several licenses from media franchises and games to create a cash-in game/add-on contents with little to no originality and/or grasp of the original source material, for example;
- They made a contract with Activision Blizzard to create Call of Duty: Mobile, a free-to-play mobile game that not only looks more like a generic Korean FPS game than an actual Call of Duty games, it also had similar microtransaction schemes in it, such as reskinned guns that are more powerful than the originals and anime-style characters.
- Several DC Comics characters were featured in Arena of Valor yet they have unoriginal skill sets based on mismatched skill sets from LoL champions.
- They acquired a license from Marvel Comics to feature some of their characters in Fortnite, such as a mode where player could transform themselves into Thanos if they found the Infinity Gauntlet that spawned randomly on the map. The game also includes skins based on their characters, including Deadpool and Captain America.
- They made a contract with The Pokémon Company to create Pokémon UNITE, which is basically yet another LoL clone with some gimmicks added.
- They are also infamous for meddling with their subsidiaries, for example;
- They made Riot Games create some cash-in spin-off titles based on the League of Legends franchise, such as Legends of Runeterra (a Heartstone-like card game), League of Legends: Wild Rift (which is just a mobile port of LoL, which Tencent originally intended to make in 2015 but got rejected due to Riot back then stating that the MOBA genre is "not fit for mobile control", said "mobile port" would have turned into Honor of Kings and Arena of Valor later), and a currently untitled League of Legends fighting game. They are responsible for several overpriced "gun skins" in Valorant, as well.
- They forced Funcom to break their promise that Conan Exiles will be released as a full game without DLC by having them dissecting several in-game contents and sold it as DLCs, resulting in a horrible launch due to the rushed state of the game.
- They meddled Epic Games into making a mobile port for Fortnite to create "competition" against a mobile port of PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, which is also owned by Tencent's other subsidiary (Bluehole), meaning that they are competing against themselves.
- Due to Tencent owning a large percentage of Epic Games and Krafton, the developers of Fortnite and PUBG respectively, Tencent has nearly monopolized the Battle Royale genre (with the only real competitor against both games being EA's Apex Legends). This lead Tencent to implement a lot of microtransactions in both games without having to worry about competition, this is actually the main reason of why most of the problems that PUBG has have been left untouched to this day.
- Their online game stores (WeGame and the Epic Store) are riddled with many problems.
- WeGame is a Chinese-only online game store that has a near monopoly on the Chinese gaming market. Due to strict censorship by the Communist Party of China (which have close ties with Tencent themselves), several foreign online stores were banned from China, including Steam (Though Valve attempted to create a "localized" version of Steam with censorship applied, which caused outrage in the Chinese gaming community and caused Valve to abandon their plans). As such, the only way to access these foreign stores in China is by using a virtual private network, or VPN.
- The Epic Games Store is riddled with several problems and questionable policies, such as the infamous timed exclusive practices, review censorship, lack of basic features such as a shopping cart, and restrictive DRM, which is carried over from WeGame.
- As mentioned above, they have strong ties with the Communist Party of China, who have supported Tencent's business in several ways, such as banning several online game stores (including Steam) in favor of Tencent's WeGame. In return, Tencent made a deal with the CCP to release several propaganda games, such as Clap for Xi Jinping: An Awesome Speech (a mobile game released for the occasion of the 19th National Party Congress) and inserting patriotic agenda into their games, such as the counter-terrorism theme of their Game for Peace program.
- As of May 2020, Tencent has shut down PUBG Mobile in China and replaced it with a reskin called Peacekeeper Elite, with a nationalistic story about Chinese "peacekeeping forces" fighting terrorist factions.
- Several of their titles and platforms (like Valorant and the Epic Games Store) contain suspicious DRM software, which led to rumors that Tencent is using that to send info to the Chinese government. It doesn't help that Tencent has been accused of bribing computer software agencies to whitelist their software.
- While they mainly copied other games, most of the games made under Tencent Games are of decent-to-good quality.
- In spite of the censorship, Tencent's gaming platform WeGame has helped several Chinese indie developers thrive, some of them would eventually make it out of China and release several great titles, such as Mirror and Chinese Parents.
- Although they usually meddle with their subsidiaries for profit, they allow their developers to have creative freedom as long as it's not against themselves or the CCP.