Tencent Bids for Gaming Empire in Deal for Developer of Clash of Clans
HONG KONG — In the world of Clash of Clans, Hou Dai has played — and paid — enough that he now leads his own clan of 50 online players.
香港——在《部落冲突》(Clash of Clans)的世界里，候棣（音）投入的时间——以及金钱——足够多，所以现在能领导一个由50名在线玩家组成的部落。
At one time, Mr. Hou, a 22-year-old recent college graduate from Shenyang, played the smartphone game as much as six hours a day. He estimates that he has spent 40,000 renminbi, about $6,000, on the game over the last three years.
Mr. Hou’s spending habits show why the Chinese internet giant Tencent just paid $8.6 billion for a controlling stake in Supercell, the Finnish creator of Clash of Clans, from the SoftBank Group Corporation of Japan.
候棣的消费习惯揭示了中国互联网巨头腾讯刚刚出资86亿美元（约合565亿元人民币），从日本软银集团股份有限公司(SoftBank Group Corporation)手中购得《部落冲突》的芬兰开发商Supercell控股权的理由。
The deal will most likely help Tencent bolster its reputation — rare among global technology companies — for having figured out how to make money from mobile devices. The company has already successfully integrated functions like shopping and money transfers into its popular Chinese chat apps.
It also adds to Tencent’s collection of video games so that it can become a truly global player — in contrast to most Chinese digital and media companies, which have often struggled to acquire and run valuable foreign products and services. The deal gives Tencent a particularly strong presence in mobile games, adding a global angle to a mobile menu that already includes the most popular smartphone chat app in China.
But it raises a question for the Chinese company: Can it retain the people that turned Supercell’s games into hits?
Many devotees of Clash of Clans and other Supercell games spend real money on fake currency and other resources to build their in-game power and heft. With the help of dedicated players like Mr. Hou, the small in-game fees, known as micropayments, have turned into a huge revenue stream that makes Supercell a major player in mobile gaming.
Supercell, in filings with the Finnish government, posted $2.4 billion in revenue last year. In April, the company was making just under $4 million a day in revenue from Clash of Clans, according to a SuperData Research estimate.
“Tencent makes about $1 billion from its gaming operations outside of China,” said Peter Warman, chief executive of Newzoo, a gaming analytics company based in Amsterdam. “With Supercell, they will more than double that. It’s a very strategic move for them.”
The Supercell takeover is Tencent’s largest to date. Over the last five years, the Chinese company — which has a market value of $210 billion — has made strategic investments and acquisitions of games across the world. The company controls Riot Games, which created the hugely popular League of Legends, and the European mobile game maker Miniclip. It also has a stake in CJ Games of South Korea.
对Supercell的收购是腾讯迄今为止最大的一笔交易。过去五年里，这家市值2100亿美元的中国公司在全球游戏领域进行了多笔战略投资和收购。它掌握着热门游戏《英雄联盟》(League of Legends)的开发商Riot Games和欧洲移动游戏开发商Miniclip的控股权，并持有韩国CJ Games的股份。
“Tencent has been aggressively out buying overseas developers,” said Mark Natkin, managing director of the technology research firm Marbridge Consulting, “not only with an eye to leveraging those companies’ games in China but also for expanding Tencent’s footprint globally.”
“腾讯一直在大力出击，收购海外开发商，”科技调研公司迈博瑞咨询有限公司(Marbridge Consulting)的执行董事马克·纳特金(Mark Natkin)说。“不仅着眼于在中国利用那些公司的游戏，还希望在全球扩大腾讯的影响力。”
A sort of internet conglomerate, Tencent has no real analogue in the United States. Because internet advertising has had slow growth in China, the company has used games to make money from its hugely successful messaging and social media products. With its messaging app WeChat, which has more than 700 million monthly active users, Tencent can easily connect a huge number of new players to Supercell’s games.
Tencent is hoping to retain the huge number of players as well as the engineers behind the games. Supercell has been able to chalk up a string of gaming successes, mostly by giving top talent a greater amount of independence to develop projects, experts say. But the Finnish gaming giant’s engineers could choose to leave if they are not given the same independence they enjoyed under SoftBank.
To that end, executives at Tencent and Supercell emphasized in a conference call that Supercell would keep its autonomy.
“We would say it makes a lot of sense for them to stay independent,” Martin Lau, president of Tencent, said on the call. “What is making them great, we want to preserve.”
Ilkka Paananen, the chief executive of Supercell, said Tencent’s track record of allowing Riot to build out League of Legends on its own was reassuring.
Supercell首席执行官伊尔卡·帕纳宁(Ilkka Paananen)表示，腾讯允许Riot独立发展《英雄联盟》(League of Legends)的过往记录消除了这方面的担忧。
Tencent said that Supercell employees would receive long-term incentive plans. Such an offer, analysts said, would signal that Tencent realizes that it owes the value of the company’s games to the large number of players and to Supercell’s game design prowess.
The acquisition also represents the latest push by large internet companies into the fast-growing mobile gaming industry, which had a combined revenue of almost $35 billion last year, according to Newzoo.
Companies like Supercell and Rovio, a Finnish counterpart that is behind the Angry Birds franchise, were once able to create hit after hit with smartphone games. But the increased competition for consumers’ attention, analysts say, has made it more difficult to break through with new games.
Faced with such cutthroat rivalries, independent gaming studios are being taken over by larger companies that can outspend the competition. Mobile gaming has become such a big business that even established players like Supercell need flush financial backers to fund their expansion.
“You need very deep pockets to play in this field,” said Mr. Warman, of Newzoo. “So if Tencent wants to play in this area, it has to be willing to pay top dollar.”
King Digital, the British-Swedish gaming company behind the Candy Crush franchise, for example, was bought by Activision Blizzard last year for $5.9 billion, in part to help the larger gaming company expand its global reach.
比如，开发出了糖果粉碎传奇(Candy Crush)系列的英国和瑞典合资公司国王数码(King Digital)，去年被规模比它大的游戏公司动视暴雪(Activision Blizzard)以59亿美元的价格收购。这笔交易在一定程度上是为了帮助后者扩展自己的全球影响力。
Mr. Hou said he was excited about the prospect of new Chinese features, but he warned that players were also worried because Tencent has a reputation for wringing money out of games.
Julianna Wu, a Hong Kong college student who plays Clash Royale, another popular Supercell title, with her boyfriend for about two hours a day, echoed those worries.
“Tencent buying the company may not be good for poor users like me who don’t have money to spend,” she said. “I’m worried it will become a game that only rich users are good at.”