Tencent helps Communist Party pay homage to the China Dream

Tencent senior vice-president Steven Ma pledged the company would launch campaigns to mark the upcoming 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, across its mobile and desktop games.
Tencent senior vice-president Steven Ma pledged the company would launch campaigns to mark the upcoming 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, across its mobile and desktop games.PHOTO: REUTERS

HONG KONG (BLOOMBERG) - Tencent Holdings is teaming up with the Chinese Communist Party apparatus to develop "patriotic" video games, edging closer to a government that is increasingly intolerant of gaming.

In Homeland Dream, which was developed in partnership with Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, players simulate building a city while alleviating poverty and executing tax breaks. Such actions are meant to echo real-life policies in China. Other political buzzwords such as President Xi Jinping's Belt and Road Initiative also feature.

The second title - Story Of My Home - is still under development, in collaboration with the publicity department of the Guangdong government, Tencent's home province. The Chinese technology giant revealed the collaborations at ChinaJoy, the country's largest gaming expo, in Shanghai last week.

The games "will focus on the accomplishments of our country's development in the new era, as well as the lives of ordinary people," Tencent senior vice-president Steven Ma said during a speech at ChinaJoy.

Tencent's presence at the show featured a joint booth with Nintendo, for which it will sell the Switch console in China. While the two companies have yet to announce a sales date or price, potential users had a first taste of what's to come as they lined up for hours to play demo versions of hit titles like Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Mario Kart 8 Deluxe.

Battered by a series of regulatory crackdowns in 2018, which included a nine-month freeze on money-making licences, Tencent may need such tie-ups to expand its gaming portfolio. In May, the Shenzhen-based company reported its smallest revenue growth since its 2004 stock debut.

The patriotic games are just the latest in Tencent's ongoing efforts to soothe regulators. Citing concerns over gaming addiction and eyesight problems among the country's young, Beijing is expected to allow fewer than 5,000 new games this year, versus more than 8,500 in 2017, Asia-focused gaming researcher Niko Partners estimates.

In May, Tencent replaced its popular Battle Royale shooter PUBG Mobile with a new game called Peacekeeper Elite in China, toning down the violence and imbuing it with elements underlining Chinese patriotism. Regulators gave the green light for hosting in-app purchases.

Tencent's Ma pledged that the company would launch campaigns to mark the upcoming 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, across its mobile and desktop games, and produce movies that "convey the spirit of the era".