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Tencent and Nintendo are Playing the Long Game with Pokémon UNITE

By Dan
Sep. 23, 2021 updated 12:24

When it comes to the hottest mobile MOBA game, many people will vote for Honor of Kings (aka Arena of Valor). Honor of Kings has always been a representative work of Tencent's TiMi Studio Group, but now it has a strong competitor: Pokémon UNITE, developed by TiMi in collaboration with Nintendo. The game was previously released for Nintendo Switch in July, and became available for mobile devices on Sept 22.

Featuring a 5v5 group battle mode, Pokémon UNITE’s mechanics are very similar to Honor of Kings. Except that the heroes are replaced with Pokémons, making it possible for players who are fans of pocket monsters to also experience the charm of MOBAs. Just one day after the launch, the game was ranked top in iOS App Store in the US.

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Tencent is the world's largest game company by revenue, and has a unique advantage in software development and marketing. Nintendo, on the other hand, is famous for its original franchise IPs - Super Mario, Zelda, Pokémon, Metroid and so on, and no doubt one of the most celebrated console game developers in the world.

As early as 2019, Tencent has established a "Nintendo Cooperation Department" under its IEG (Interactive Entertainment Group), whose function is to be responsible for the agency work of Nintendo Switch console, to further establish long-term and in-depth strategic cooperation with Nintendo on the basis of game consoles, and to jointly explore broader content areas. This releases two signals: Nintendo's desire to enter the Chinese market, and Tencent’s hope to open up the international market.

Nintendo has revealed its desire to enter the Chinese market several times earlier, even established a proxy branch named iQue. However, its progress has been deterred by censorship and policy. This time, through the cooperation with Tencent, Nintendo is able to make use of Tencent's development ability, and promote their games and IP to Tencent's huge user base. On the other hand, Tencent can also take advantage of Pokémon and other Nintendo IP to create awareness and brand image it has desired for years in the international market, which is a great opportunity for both sides.