Tencent, officially known as Tencent Holdings Limited, is a multinational conglomerate headquartered in China. Founded in 1998, Tencent got its start by launching a simple messenger product that allowed users to connect with each other online.
A lot has happened since then. Tencent now has a stake in dozens of industries, offering services such as social networks, mobile games, smartphones, and other tech related products. Yet, in the West, they (surprisingly) remain an unknown entity. Here is everything you need to know about this highly influential company.
Social Media In China
Completely unknown to the western hemisphere, QQ is among the most popular instant messaging platforms in China. In fact, a study in 2018 determined that QQ had over 800 million active users. Over the years QQ has evolved into something much more than a messaging system, allowing users the option to purchase virtual goods for their avatars, and has expanded to include Qzone, one of the biggest social networking platforms in China. Facebook might reign supreme elsewhere, but not in this country—it’s banned across the nation.
Gaming Around The Globe
Tencent Games was founded in 2003 in order to develop online games for the company’s QQ platform. However, it quickly branched out and started developing other titles. Several of these games are only released in China and are of a political nature, usually praising Xi Jinping or the Communist Party of China.
Tencent now plays a role in many triple-A titles around the world. Tencent owns League of Legends, and a portion of Fortnite and PUBG. It acquired Ubisoft stock in 2018, a majority stake in Grinding Gear Games (Path of Exile), and a sizable share of Riot Games, Epic Games, Activision Blizzard, and Supercell. That means juggernaut titles such as Call of Duty, World of Warcraft, Fortnite, and Clash of Clans are all influenced by Tencent.
Not content to simply buy up shares in other developers and publishers, Tencent has created its own game design studio. Most recently, this resulted in the release of the popular Call of Duty Mobile game.
Should We Be Worried?
Comics, television, music, even education and utilities—Tencent plays a role in all of these industries. It truly is a monster-of-a-company, one that we need to be more aware of. This organization has a massive influence in China, and it has firmly established itself as a player in the gaming industry.
Worryingly, it has been reported that Tencent is involved in many forms of censorship on their platform and are not shy when it comes to sharing users’ data with the government. This is a complicated matter, as laws in China may not give Tencent a choice in what it wants to share—it might be a legal obligation. In fact, it seems that the company’s stock is on a downward spiral, likely due to these legal obligations to the Chinese government.
While it might be too early to say Tencent is a ‘bad’ organization, it is certainly one to keep an eye on. Data privacy in the technology sector is a hot-button issue and is a grave concern with Tencent. Mobile games are excellent devices for harvesting users’ information—a type of game Tencent is all too familiar with. Only time will tell how this organization changes the landscape of the gaming industry, but its impact can already be seen.