The rest of the world may be busy playing Pokemon Go, but China’s mobile gamers are going crazy for a totally different game. It’s called Honor of Kings (former: King of Glory 王者荣耀) and it’s China’s top grossing mobile game

It’s also a pretty complete copy of League of Legends. Now, to be fair, this isn’t an issue of a Chinese company stealing IP. King of Glory / Honor of Kings was created by Tencent, which also wholly owns League of Legends creator Riot Games, so the company is well within its rights to copy League of Legends if it wants to. And given that League has been China’s top PC game for years now, it’s not hard to understand why Tencent copied it to mobile.

The role-playing game for smartphones, has attracted 50 million active daily users, after adding five million a month since it was launched by Tencent last year making it more popular than Nintendo’s global sensation, Pokemon Go. Although the game is almost unknown outside of China, Honor of Kings, in which players battle mythical beasts in a fantasy landscape, now has an army of players roughly equal to the total population of South Korea.

The rise of the dragon-battling game underlines the transition in Chinese gaming away from PCs towards mobile, and the continued reliance of top Chinese titles on imported designs. Honor of Kings is essentially a mobile version of the world’s most played game, League of Legends, which was created by Riot Games.

Also known as Kings of Glory, Honor of Kings was responsible for much of Tencent’s reported 87 per cent jump in revenue from mobile games in the third quarter of 2016, which contributed to a 43 per cent rise in net profits from a year earlier. About half of Tencent’s total revenues comes from its games business, making it the world’s biggest games company by revenue.

An average Honor of Kings user plays for almost six hours a week and spends 41 yuan (S$8.50) on the game each month. Like most mobile games in China, it is free to download.

Tencent gets revenue from selling in-game extras such as upgraded characters and weapons. So far, the game has been downloaded more than 200 million times.

Benjamin Wu, an analyst at Shanghai-based consultancy Pacific Epoch, predicted the game’s daily users could reach 70 million this year. In comparison, Pokemon Go had some 45 million people actively playing worldwide at its peak in July, but that number dropped to around 30 million a month later, according to data from analytics company Apptopia.

Unlike the Nintendo game, however, Honor of Kings’ users are almost entirely based in China. Tencent plans to launch a Korean version this year. The Chinese title’s growth was driven in part by promotion on Tencent’s social media platforms WeChat and QQ, which have hundreds of millions of users in the country. Online streams of competitors playing the game have drawn in millions of viewers on eSports platforms like Panda TV, owned by Wang Sicong, the son of China’s richest man Wang Jianlin.

Source: Financial Times