Tencent pulls hit game ‘Dungeon & Fighter Mobile’ from app stores of Huawei, Oppo and Vivo in sign of dispute

‘Dungeon & Fighter Mobile’ will not be available on the app stores of some Chinese Android smartphone vendors from Thursday owing to expired contracts. — SCMP

Tencent Holdings has pulled new hit Dungeon & Fighter (DnF) Mobile from the app stores of Huawei Technologies, Oppo and Vivo, as the contracts of these major Chinese Android smartphone vendors expired less than a month after the video game’s launch.

DnF Mobile will no longer be available on some Android platforms from Thursday, according to a notice released on Wednesday by the game’s operating team. The affected app stores – including those of Huawei, Oppo and Vivo – were identified on the same day in a report by Chinese media outlet 21st Century Business Herald, which cited anonymous sources.

The DnF Mobile team recommended that new users on Android systems download the game from its official website amid “adjustments in our cooperation with certain app stores”. As such, these users would still be able to complete a major upgrade scheduled on Thursday within the game’s app.

Tencent did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Dungeon & Fighter Mobile is a multiplayer, action role-playing game based on the personal computer title Dungeon & Fighter Online, which was first released on the mainland in 2008.

The removal of DnF Mobile from those Android platforms marks the latest flare-up between large game developers and publishers like Tencent, which runs the world’s biggest video gaming business by revenue, and major mainland distribution channels, as gamers increasingly focus on a small number of popular titles.

Such a dispute spilled into public view on Jan 1, 2021, when Huawei announced it had removed Tencent’s mobile games from its app store. That move shocked netizens on the mainland at the time because Huawei then accounted for 43% of the domestic smartphone market and many of its users played popular Tencent video games such as Honour of Kings.

Tencent’s games subsequently reappeared after a few hours on Huawei’s app store, with both sides claiming that their dispute was solved “after friendly negotiations”. Neither Huawei nor Tencent offered an explanation for what happened.

Android app store operators on the mainland are known for sometimes taking up to 50% of a video game’s revenue as commission.

Still, suspending the availability of popular titles like DnF Mobile from certain app stores could cast some uncertainty to the domestic video gaming industry, which is trying to regain momentum after a lengthy regulatory crackdown on the internet sector.

DnF Mobile has become a runaway hit on Apple’s mainland China App Store, surpassing the daily revenue of Tencent’s two flagship titles, Honour of Kings and Peacekeeper Elite, in the second day of its domestic release last month, according to data from Chinese app analytics platform Qimai.

Following its launch on May 21, DnF Mobile is expected to gross around 6bil yuan (RM3.88bil or US$827mil) in a year, according to a recent note by investment bank Jefferies.

The mobile version of Dungeon & Fighter Online, the personal computer game developed by Nexon subsidiary Neople, provides a much-needed shot in the arm for Tencent’s video gaming business on the mainland, which recorded a 2% year-on-year decline in first-quarter revenue to 34.5bil yuan (RM22.31bil). – South China Morning Post

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