How Arena Of Valor Plans To Take On The Western Market

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From top-down DOTA clones to side-scrolling shooters, every company is looking for their own gimmick to make their multiplayer online battle arena, or MOBA, stand out from the pack. Tencent, a Chinese investment company and one of the biggest in the world, struck gold with a mobile take on the classic 5v5 formula, Honour Of Kings. One of the most-played games in the world, it has over 200 million players with between 50 and 80 million daily active users. The franchise based on Chinese mythology has become so huge, Tencent invested billions of dollars into creating a theme park and esports arena based on the insanely popular franchise.

Tencent is now bringing the game to the West, rebranding the MOBA as Arena Of Valor. The new version of the game has been in beta in Europe since August, but is finally ready to come to the states. “The main launch is when NA gets it, until then everything is in Beta,” Chris Schmidt, PR manager with Tencent, told Player.One at TwitchCon 2017.

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Like every MOBA, objective control is key. Photo: Tencent Games

In China, most serious gamers play on their mobile devices. When I went to Shanghai to cover the Hearthstone Spring Championship, I couldn’t believe the intense devotion  that these players and viewers had for a virtual card game on their phone. In North America, mobile games have struggled to gain the same credibility and devoted following typical of as PC or console titles. But Schmidt thinks that’s all about to change.  

“There is enough of a critical mass of people here on mobile in the United States and Canada,” Schmidt said. “Phones have gotten to the point where they are powerful enough to play great-looking games and that fans want to experience a more involved, intensive, experience rather than the casual games people play most of the time here in the states.”

Tencent has published games in the West before, but this is their first real foray into creating a game specifically for a North American market. The massive Chinese company has maintained an office in Palo Alto for years, and has just been looking for that chance to break into the American scene. “They’ve been meticulously trying to do the research and trying to figure out what was going to make sense. This could be cast-off as just a normal mobile game, which are a dime a dozen, but this is serious,” Schmidt explained.

To appeal to a Western audience, Tencent needed to change more than the game’s title, but it’s overall aesthetic. Honour Of Kings has a more anime-inspired look, meant to appeal to a younger audience, while Arena Of Valor is more grown-up with darker visuals and themes. “Honour Of Kings has this Tolkien-esque, Middle Earth vibe, but since esports is so huge in the states, Arena Of Valor made more sense” Schmidt said.

There will also be a few recognizable faces to help players acclimate to their mobile MOBA. DC has partnered with Arena Of Valor to turn 11 of its characters, including Superman, Green Lantern and Wonder Woman, into playable champions, with kits to reflect their unique play styles. Batman is already playable in Honour Of Kings, an assassin class with invisibility and Batarangs. These heroes-turned-champions won’t be available at launch, but will be released in the game’s first official patch.

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Batman needs no introduction Photo: Tencent Games

Tencent is currently in talks to bring other Western properties into the game, but they have to make sure they mesh well with the world of Arena Of Valor. Honour Of King’s characters draw inspiration from Chinese mythology, but the company plans to tailor the game more specifically to an American audience.

“The idea is that we want to localize for each market, using cultural norms and histories of each market that we go into,” Schmidt said. “We’re changing character names and reskinning them. DC is an example of trying to bring players into something that’s a bit more relatable. We’re not super-focused on the history of the Chinese game, we’re trying to localize.”

You can pre-register for Arena Of Valor on iOS and Android with a release on the Nintendo Switch sometime in the future.

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