China's 'Honor of Kings' Is Coming to America

By Alyssa Abkowitz Features Dow Jones Newswires

Look out, America: Here comes "Honor of Kings," the Chinese videogame so addictive that its maker imposed a curfew on the youngest enthusiasts and daily playing-time limits on players through age 18.

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An English-language version is being developed by producer Tencent Holdings Ltd. for U.S. release as early as this fall, according to people familiar with the matter. Tencent is also looking to expand the game to Europe, they said.

Released in 2015, the role-playing fantasy game for smartphones has more than 50 million daily active users, according to Tencent. Players log in through the company's popular WeChat or QQ social-network platforms.

The game, which includes characters from Chinese history, was designed for smartphones phones, with maps and graphics sized for phone screens and easy-to-maneuver controls.

That is part of the appeal; another is that it is easy for players to set up competitions against others at their school, workplace or other group settings. There is even an "auto battle" setting that allows play to continue if an internet connection is briefly lost--a potential "lifesaver in poor-signal areas," gaming consultancy Niko Partners wrote in an analysis.

The game's addictive qualities have created some fallout for Tencent, however: Parents and teachers grumble that students are falling asleep in class because they played late into the night, according to Chinese state media.

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In response, Tencent this week announced that players 12 and under would be limited to one hour of play daily and would be cut off at 9 p.m. Players aged 13 to 18 get two hours a day, with no cutoff time. Players register using their national identification information, which includes birth date.

There were already reports in the Chinese news media this week of a black market in fake or manipulated data for underage players.

Tencent doesn't break out revenue for specific games, but analysts at Deutsche Bank estimate "Honor of Kings" accounts for more than 40% of its mobile-gaming revenue, which makes up about 30% of revenue overall. Tencent's first-quarter revenue hit $7.18 billion, up 55% from a year earlier, with mobile gaming one of the growth drivers.

The stock fell 4% the first day of the playing-time limits, though the company said in a statement that it doesn't expect them to have material impact on overall financial results. "Honor of Kings" is free to download; users pay for special powers and advanced weapons.

After announcing the limits on play, Tencent saw a dramatic increase in the number of parents linking their accounts to their children's to monitor playtime, according to a person familiar with the situation.

Write to Alyssa Abkowitz at alyssa.abkowitz@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 07, 2017 08:33 ET (12:33 GMT)