Last week, WeChat’s owner Tencent agreed to pay $8.6 billion to gain control of Finnish mobile games maker Supercel. This was less than two weeks after the game-to-movie adaption Warcraft stormed the Chinese box office with a record-breaking $156 million in just five days – more than Star Wars: The Force Awakens total haul of $125.4 million in China.
Tencent had also invested in the Warcraft. Following the Supercel purchase, we are likely to see the company backing more film adaptions of games and the corresponding Marvel-type merchandise, theme parks and everything else they can make a buck on.
Chinese love gaming; Tencent alone made $9 billion in gaming revenue last year. Chinese gamers account for more than half of the 5 million World of Warcraft players globally. You’ve got a winning formula when you can couple that with China’s growing affection for cinema, which soared around 50% last year and is expected to be the biggest market globally by 2017. 15 new cinemas open a day in China providing more and more consumers with an accessible and affordable experience.
What is interesting about the Warcraft in China, is that it bombed in the US, earning just $24.4 million on opening weekend, and receiving a rating of just 4.2/10 on Rotten Tomatoes. It is another sign that success in the US is becoming less crucial for the overall triumph of blockbusters worldwide.
The increasing importance of wooing Chinese cinema-goers is already changing the face of film, but this is just the beginning. Tencent, like Alibaba, is scrambling to invest billions in the entertainment and film industries.
With China’s middle classes being so active online, its big Internet companies have immeasurable insights into consumer preferences. Take Tencent, they have an enormous bank of user insights – of Chinese likes and dislikes, just from WeChat Moments, messages and games. This is likely to factor into themes and paraphernalia for film and game development. Alibaba’s customers’ ecommerce, Youku and other preferences will also help shape the direction of movies.
What does that mean for brands? It should reemphasise the popularity of gaming with Chinese consumers, and urge brands to incorporate this into marketing initiatives where relevant. There are also increasing opportunities with film associations and product placements. On a deeper level, it is likely that companies like Tencent and Alibaba will increasingly integrate their gaming and movie assets into their platforms such as WeChat and Tmall, allowing a new suite of targeted and engaging marketing opportunities on digital channels. Stay tuned! Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.