BEIJING Jan 8 E-commerce giant Alibaba Group
Holding Ltd said on Wednesday it would set up a mobile gaming
platform in China, venturing into a fast growing sector
dominated by tech rival Tencent Holdings Ltd.
Mobile gaming is hugely popular in China, home to the
largest number of smartphone users in the world. In 2013, mobile
gaming revenue accounted for 11.24 billion yuan ($1.86 billion),
or 13.5 percent of the overall Chinese video gaming market, the
world's third largest.
Liu Chunning, a former Tencent executive who now heads
Alibaba's digital entertainment business, said in a statement
the mobile gaming platform would be offered free to developers
for the first year.
He did not say, however, when it would be set up and the
statement gave few other details.
Alibaba spokeswoman Florence Shih said the platform would be
launched in the near future. "We're not making mobile games,
we're the platform operator," she added.
A person familiar with the matter said the platform may have
its own dedicated app or could be integrated into existing
Alibaba apps such as e-commerce app Mobile Taobao or Laiwang, a
social messaging app.
Alibaba's platform will have to compete with Tencent, which
reported revenue of 338 million yuan ($55.86 million) from
mobile gaming in the January-March quarter of last year.
Tencent's social messaging app WeChat, which includes games,
is used by more than half of all Chinese smartphone users. The
number of monthly active WeChat users grew 124 percent
year-on-year in the third quarter of 2013, and figures from
domestic app stores showing Tencent's mobile games are also
In October, Japanese tech and telecoms group SoftBank Corp
, which has a 36.7 percent stake in Alibaba, agreed to
pay $1.53 billion for a 51 percent stake in Finnish mobile game
maker Supercell, valuing the small firm which generated hit
games like "Clash of Clans" and "Hay Day" at $3 billion.
It was not immediately clear whether Alibaba would leverage
that relationship to its advantage.
Alibaba is widely expected to launch an IPO this year. It
has been conservatively estimated to be worth over $100 billion.