Level Infinite, the western arm of global game giant Tencent, and TimiStudio Group, its new subsidiary, were launched in an effort to deliver high-quality games to a global audience. At GamesBeat Summit 2023, Ryan Ward, commercial team director at TiMi Studio Group — best known for Honor of Kings — and Anthony Crouts, marketing director, Tencent Games North America, discussed the ways Tencent and its subsidiaries are successfully collaborating to make big games and bring them to a worldwide audience.
The Level Infinite brand, encompassing a broad array of partner studios and content creators, aims to ensure everyone under that umbrella has the resources, the focus and the understanding of the marketplace to bring the right users to the right content, and create a hit, said Crouts. Honor of Kings, a collaboration between TiMi and Level Infinite, currently has 100 million DAUs — a bonafide mobile sensation, with an audience of more than 50% women gamers.
“The big thing that we’re trying to do is provide that overarching brand and container for all of our great studios,” Crouts said. “It’s how we engage with our studios, helping them realize their vision, applying the resources that we have, across all of the different disciplines in marketing — when it comes to social media, when it comes to paid advertising, when it comes to research and user insights and giving that back to the development teams.”
They’re well beyond the premium DLC era, Ward said — today the way to provide value to players is with games-as-a-service and live service models. And that model is really at the heart of everything TiMi does, he explained, and why Tencent is a valuable partner, providing a foundation from which to adapt to a changing market.
“We want to put quality first with awesome creative content that the market actually wants and cares about, and then try and provide an ongoing, everlasting solution with continuous value,” he said. “It requires a whole new mindset. We want to carry the DNA of Tencent games at a macro level, but also plan and adapt for the changing market and really meet the needs in the West.”
Meeting global cross-platform demands
Today, mobile completely dominates both PC and console games revenue not just in China, but worldwide. But to meet the demand of players the world over, and stay competitive worldwide, games need to be available on every platform.
“We want to make sure that our studio partners have an opportunity to create content not being held hostage by one particular platform, but being agnostic and really working with a lot of different platforms,” Crouts said. “Making sure that we’re able to support that initiative is our mandate, making sure that we’re best-in-class when it comes to publishing on PC and continue to dominate on mobile.”
And that’s why they look for diversity in their studios — to combat platform segmentation, and create games for every market.
And while it’s a challenge to develop on multiple fronts, it’s also a way to hedge their bets against the market, Ward said.
“Ultimately, we want to be in that that cross-play era because it’s all about accessibility at the end of the day, making sure that you can reach the broadest base possible and actually meet the needs of the platform,” he said. “They’re using all of the platforms, not just one platform. You’re spending maybe 20 minutes at lunch on a mobile device. But as your day goes on, you start switching over to the 10-foot experience on your sofa and the big screen or your string platform in your gaming PC. So ideally, you want to capture all of the leisure time that you can.”
Collaborating with an eye on the market
The collaboration between TiMi and Tencent is a connection between the east and the west. While TiMi tries to respect and leverage the DNA of Tencent and its eastern market expertise, the studio is working to create a process that is effective for western markets. It takes two different buckets, Ward said: creative rationalization, and envisioning its winning strategy.
Everything that we do at TiMI starts with the creative process, he explained. They start from the narrative, in order to develop an IP with broad appeal, and then imagining its gameplay pillars: the epic replayable moments, and what their core game loops will be.
“We’re starting from these key pieces,” he said. “We’re not even talking business yet, or business opportunity. We know we have to make great high-value games to change hearts and minds and win the eyeballs, and then layer in the business strategy around what platforms we’re going to go on, where we’re going to publish, and even what our production strategy is. We’re very proof-of-concept minded, fast iteration and trying to learn from those experiences. And then later on we’ll be ramping up to mass production.”
Level Infinite wants to be where gamers are, where the users are, and provide them with great content, Crouts says, and so they’re constantly evaluating content out of TiMi for marketability, user segmentation, and whether it feels right for the market.
“We don’t like to be formulaic because we want to try new directions in the gaming space,” he said. “We want to be innovative, we want to be unique, but a lot of times it takes a lot of collaboration from all the different cross-functional teams. So we have an eye for what works because we have a wide portfolio of successful games. We want to mirror what’s working, and double down on that, and eliminate what’s not working and take those learnings and apply it to evaluating new content.”
That includes how they’re going to bring it to market, who their audience is, and how to target them effectively, to gain a better understanding of what’s working in the marketplace, not just from a Western perspective, but also from an eastern point of view, in order to grow globally.
“It doesn’t matter really where it is — if it’s a great game, it can migrate to other regions and other territories and be successful,” Crouts said. “It’s helping the development studios to realize that greatness and bringing that out and supporting it with resources.”
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