Chinese gaming company Tencent isn't as well known in North America as it is in, say, China. But it is a huge player in the business—one of the biggest in the world, in fact. It owns League of Legends studio Riot Games and mobile game company Supercell, and it has holdings in Epic, Activision Blizzard, Robot Entertainment, Glu Mobile, and others. Its total revenues for the 2016 fiscal year were $22 billion dollars.
That's why it was a pretty big deal when Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad said on Twitter earlier this week that the company is preparing to rebrand its Tencent Gaming Platform—"basically Tencent's version of Steam," as he put it—to "WeGame," with "support for both Chinese and Global users." The obvious implication was that Tencent is gearing up for a move into the global marketplace, and by extension a showdown with Western digital big dog Steam—a fight it has the financial muscle to win.
So it seems it will support both Chinese and Global users. Allow developers and users to interactSupport localisationsOne storefront pic.twitter.com/uwGTayzZN4April 16, 2017
Niko Partners later clarified in a statement sent to VentureBeat that the information wasn't entirely accurate, as Ahmad's information "came from a slide he saw on Tencent's Chinese website, which did not state global expansion of WeGame as part of the rebranding." That's not to say it won't happen, but the actual announcement of the change (and, hopefully, Tencent's longer-term plans for the platform) won't be made until tomorrow.
Ahmad told Motherboard more recently that he actually doesn't think Tencent will try to compete with Steam outside of China at this point: "Right now, Tencent is focusing on growing the platform in China and bringing as many games, both local and foreign, to Chinese gamers," he said. But if it does make a meaningful move to broaden its reach with WeGame, it could have a huge impact. This Gamaustra blog post demonstrates how the Chinese market is both massive and, from the perspective of Western developers, largely untapped. That, coupled with its significant reach advantage over Steam in China, means Tencent could quickly approach equal footing in the global market, and that's when things will get interesting.
The full WeGame announcement is scheduled to be made tomorrow. We'll update when it's out.