Tencent’s mobile game Honour of Kings is so successful that it faces unexpected challenges

Honour of Kings, a video game produced by China’s social networking and gaming giant Tencent, has attracted 50 million daily active users and made RMB 6 billion (USD 876 million) in the first quarter, making it the best selling game globally, according to Financial Times. To put it more vividly, its Q1 earnings dwarfed 94.2 percent of all companies listed in China’s stock market, reported the Beijing News.

After its introduction at the end of 2015, Honour of Kings had 7.5 million daily active users by the end of that year. That number jumped to 30 million by July 2016, and increased to 50 million by the end of 2016.

So why is Honour of Kings so popular in China?

  • First, Tencent’s ubiquitous social networking apps make it much easier for Honour of Kings to gain new users.

WeChat and QQ, Tencent’s two major social networking apps, have 938 million and 861 million monthly active users respectively, according to Tencent’s 2016 annual report last month. Both apps have a gaming section in which Honour of Kings usually tops the games lists. Therefore, it is quite easy for the large number of social networking app users to spot the game and give it a try.

  • Second, Honour of Kings is a social game itself, making it a new way of entertainment for users and their friends.

Honour of Kings, a so-called Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) game, requires five players to fight against another group of five. To form a team, users tend to invite their friends on WeChat or QQ to join them. Unlike many other video games which users play alone, Honour of Kings connects users with their friends in real life. Its social function helps it gain more users and keep them glued.

However, the popularity of the game brings problems too.

Users, especially teenagers, are so addicted to Honour of Kings that Tencent has to restrict the amount of time and money they can spend on the game.

According to local media reports, one 11-year-old boy in southern city Shenzhen secretly spent RMB 30,000 on his father’s bank card to pay for the game. Another addicted boy of age 13 in eastern city Hangzhou jumped off from the fourth floor of a building after his cellphone was confiscated by his father. He demanded for his cell phone immediately after he woke up in hospital.

Such incidents urge Tencent to act on user addiction. On July 2, Tencent announced that users ages 12 and below can only play the game for 1 hour a day, and those between the ages of 12 and 18 can play at most two hours a day. It plans to ban children from logging in after 9 p.m., and will force those who exceed these game time limits to log off. Moreover, Tencent said it will make it easier for parents to monitor how much time and money their children can spend on the game, and will continue to require users to register with their real names.

Furthermore, cheating is a headache for Tencent. AllTechAsia finds that over 2,000 online shops on Alibaba’s e-commerce platform Taobao provide “play for you” services for those who want to upgrade their Honour of Kings accounts. These shops charge RMB 70 to 450 to play for their customers, depending on how advanced those customers want their game accounts to be.

On June 13, Tencent said that it will severely strike such cheating behavior and those user accounts that cross the line may be shut down.