Call of Duty is one of the world’s largest video game franchises, selling more than $1 billion a year. Activision Publishing, a division of Activision Blizzard, is churning out console versions of the game every year, but it is also making an online version of the game for the Chinese market.
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It is doing so because of the unspoken high piracy rates for disc-based games in China and because of a huge shift toward online games in the market. Tencent Holdings is a leading internet services provider and is a kind of Facebook of China. It has a massive $50 billion market value and runs a number of games on top of its services.
Call of Duty Online has been in development for more than two years and will be launched exclusively on Tencent in mainland China as a free-to-play game, where users play for free and pay real money for in-game virtual items.
“We are very excited about our relationship with Tencent and the opportunities for gaming in China,” said Bobby Kotick, CEO of Activision Blizzard. “We think China is one of the most exciting places in the world for us to grow our business and to develop innovative new games.”
Kotick added, “Tencent is an ideal partner for Activision to bring Call of Duty Online to China. Tencent has a terrific track record of customer-focused innovation and deep market knowledge that will be invaluable to Activision as we build great games for China. We have worked closely with Tencent to create a game with broad appeal for the Chinese market. We look forward to laying the foundation for a long-standing relationship with Tencent and to launching a new and unique experience for fans.”
If Chinese players like Call of Duty Online, it could open the floodgates for huge amounts of revenue for both companies. Tencent operates a variety of online platforms, including its Instant Messaging QQ, web portal QQ.com, and the QQ Game platform.
Martin Lau, president of Tencent, said, “We are thrilled to work with the world’s premiere game developer and publisher to bring this much-awaited title to Chinese game players. We believe Call of Duty Online will attract tens of millions of loyal fans in China, and our game platform and operational expertise to run massive multi-player online games can provide strong support to deliver the immersive and highly interactive game experience to game players in China.”
The deal is likely to spur speculation, as Tencent is one of the few entertainment companies large enough to buy Activision Blizzard. Rumors have floated in recent days that Vivendi plans to sell off its 61 percent stake in Activision Blizzard. David Wallerstein, head of international at Tencent, will be speaking at our GamesBeat 2012 conference next week in a fireside chat, so stay tuned.
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