The parent company of mega popular social media app Tik Tok, ByteDance has acquired gaming studio Moonton at an estimated valuation of $4 billion. This means that they now own the esports and casual gamer-focused mobile game, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang.
This puts ByteDance, and their video gaming focused vertical, Nuverse, in direct competition with Tencent. They are the other major video game publisher in the Chinese mobile market. Now, three of the biggest publishers in Asia: Riot Games, Tencent, and ByteDance each have their own mobile MOBA titles. It will be interesting to see whether Honor of Kings, Mobile Legends, or League of Legends: Wild Rift comes out on top.
They also offered to acquire Moonton but their bid was matched by ByteDance. When Reuters contacted Tencent about the acquisition, they said they do not comment on market speculation. Although the multiple lawsuits both Riot Games and Tencent have filed against Moonton for what they say was copyright infringement does make it clear that they are concerned about the growth of their MOBA market.
After the wild success of Tik Tok, it is clear that the video games business is their next focus. Mobile Legends already has a significant userbase in Asia. They have a reported one billion installs and 100 million monthly active users.
ByteDance and the future of gaming
In a statement about the acquisition to Reuters, ByteDance declined to comment on the size of it but they did add:
“Through cross-team collaboration and drawing on lessons and insights from its own rapid growth, Moonton provides the strategic support needed to accelerate Nuverse’s global gaming offerings.”
Although Yuan Jing, CEO of Moonton is not authorised to speak to the press. An internal memo was leaked to Reuters under the condition of anonymity that confirms that the company would operate independently from ByteDance after the acquisition.
They are clearly aiming to expand their portfolio of gaming products, but they may not have the expertise to run them at the moment. I think they have made the best move by letting the company operate independently. The real boon to the company is their ability to advertise the game and push it into different markets.
Mobile Legends Esports
Mobile Legends: Bang Bang is a popular mobile esports game in Asia, but it has yet to gain much traction in the West. With the support of ByteDance and their proven track record of promoting apps to a global audience, they could expand the reach of Mobile Legends to the world.
We already have esports tournaments like the King of Kings series and the Mobile Legends Professional League. The Mobile Legends Professional League has events all over South East Asia from Indonesia to the Philippines. This sort of reach and tournament infrastructure could easily be expanded to the world stage if and when the game gains an even larger audience.