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Tencent turns to old rival ByteDance to advertise its latest game

Strange bedfellows: Tencent and ByteDance, two of China’s top digital giants, have been legal rivals for years. However, an advertising expenditure analysis shows that the former’s gaming aspirations have taken precedence over any hard feelings as Tencent tries to take on one of 2023’s most popular mobile games.

Analysts have observed that most of Tencent’s ad spending for its new mobile game Dream Star has gone to ByteDance. The data suggests the title’s success must be critical to Tencent, as the company has repeatedly feuded with ByteDance in recent years.

Dream Star isn’t available on Western mobile app stores like Google Play or the Apple Store. However, footage of the game appears remarkably similar to NetEase’s Eggy Party, implying an attempt to match its success in global markets. Both titles are family-oriented multiplayer platformers where players race and compete in various minigames, not unlike Fall Guys or Mario Party.

Eggy Party has skyrocketed to mass popularity since its worldwide release in May following a soft launch in the Philipines. With over 100 million active users, it has racked up over 10 million downloads on Google Play. On iOS, it’s currently ranked fourth among family titles and maintains high user ratings on both platforms.

Analysts predict that the free-to-play game could earn NetEase over $1 billion this year in microtransactions, and much of that success might be due to advertising on ByteDance platforms. ByteDance owns TikTok and its Chinese sister service, Douyin.

Tencent is seemingly taking a similar path. Data tracking company DataEye estimates that 38 percent of Tencent’s ads for Dream Star in the last 30 days were on ByteDance’s Pangolin platform. Meanwhile, only 12 percent of the game’s advertising appeared on Tencent’s Youlianghui. Tencent plans to invest almost $200 million into Dream Star, and analysts think the game could earn up to $842 million in its first year.

The advertising drive is significant due to Tencent’s strained relationship with ByteDance. Tencent, which owns the massive WeChat and QQ platforms, has fought multiple court battles with ByteDance since 2018, each accusing the other of unfair market practices.

For example, ByteDance opened a $14 million lawsuit against Tencent in 2021, claiming it blocked Douyin users from sharing content on WeChat and QQ. Denying the claims, Tencent countersued, accusing ByteDance of illicitly acquiring WeChat users’ information. The advertising truce suggests that party games could become a significant new mobile battleground.

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