Bytedance Supersedes Tencent to Distribute ‘Naruto’ Mobile Game in China

Bytedance has recently acquired the exclusive rights to distribute IP-based massive multiplayer online (MMO) mobile game NARUTO: Slugfest in China, replacing Tencent as the publisher for the title in the country, game media GameLook reported. The game is the first known MMO title that Bytedance would publish.

Kaiser Culture, the developer of NARUTO: Slugfest, announced at a press conference in November last year that it would release the IP-based title in partnership with Tencent. However, according to Kaiser Culture’s 2019 results, which was released on April 29, Bytedance will be the exclusive distributor of the mobile game in China.

Naruto has been a highly profitable game IP in China, with Tencent currently distributing two of the most profitable titles, mobile fighting game NARUTO Mobile and mobile role-playing game NARUTO Online Mobile. According to the GameLook report, the two titles generated RMB 800 million and RMB 180 million on iOS in 2019, respectively.

NARUTO: Slugfest is the first MMO title for the IP featuring an open world with real-time combat. The title is being beta tested in markets such as Europe and Southeast Asia. The title could help Bytedance gain a share of the mobile MMO market dominated by Tencent and NetEase.

Bytedance has made a series of forays into the mobile game market in the past two years. After launching its first casual music game on Douyin in February 2019, the company has distributed 13 casual games that made it to the top-10 free game chart on iOS.

In addition to casual games, which are generally short-lived and not extremely popular in China, Bytedance has also been laying the groundwork for the development of hardcore games. In June 2019, the company put together a team of several hundred people to develop hardcore games, media outlet LatePost reported. By January 2020, Bytedance already has a gaming team of more than 1,000 employees.

The Douyin and TikTok owner also poached executives from major gaming companies such as Tencent, NetEase, and Perfect World to lead its gaming teams. Bytedance’s Beijing gaming team, for instance, is led by former Perfect World Senior Director Wang Kuiwu.

Despite these efforts, however, Bytedance hasn’t seen much success with the two hardcore games that it currently distributes. As of writing, basketball game Hot Street Basketball, which was released in March, ranks 314th on the App Store’s free game chart, and strategy game Art of War: Infinity Evolution only ranks 845th on the same list.