ByteDance to name exclusive head for nascent gaming business

FILE PHOTO: Visitors are seen at the booth of Bytedance Technology, which owns news aggregator app Jinri Toutiao and short video app Tik Tok, or Douyin, at the China International Software Expo in Beijing, China June 29, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

China’s ByteDance, the owner of video-sharing app TikTok, will appoint an executive to exclusively lead its nascent gaming business, sources said, signalling its growth ambitions in the sector and an intensifying rivalry with tech giant Tencent.

Yan Shou, head of both strategy and gaming businesses, will focus wholly on gaming, as ByteDance sees gaming as the next important source of growth and plans to roll out a game like Honor of Kings, according to one of the people, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

The move comes as the Beijing-based startup, which was valued at $78 billion in late 2018 and is backed by well-known investors including SoftBank Group Corp and KKR Inc, is seeking to diversify its business amid a U.S. national security probe into TikTok.

Gaming became strategically important for ByteDance a year ago and the division is working on several full-fledged games simultaneously, according to separate people familiar with the matter.

ByteDance declined to comment. Yan did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

Gaming is seen as a steady revenue source as users tend to keep playing popular titles for years. The industry has also received a boost in recent weeks after the coronavirus outbreak forced many Chinese residents to stay at home, driving up game downloads.

China’s gaming industry, the world’s biggest, is currently dominated by Tencent Holdings, which developed the successful mobile game Honor of Kings and currently makes up over half of the market by sales, according to research firm Gamma Data. Other major players include NetEase.

An increased focus on gaming by ByteDance will heighten its competition with Tencent, with which it already competes in areas such as short video and music streaming.

Yan, vice president at ByteDance, reports to company Founder and CEO Zhang Yiming. Before ByteDance, Yan worked as a strategy manager at Tencent, according to Yan’s LinkedIn profile.

The personnel change also means that ByteDance needs a new vice president to oversee its strategy and investment team. Currently, the team is run by two directors, and the situation is supposed to be temporary, according to one of the sources.

ByteDance first dipped its toes into gaming by launching “mini-games” via its Chinese short video hit Douyin in February 2019. For the mini-games built within Douyin, users don’t need to download them separately and can just play within the Douyin app. Mini-games were first created and launched by Tencent.

Reuters

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In Singapore, we are looking to double our reporting team by this year-end to comprehensively cover the fast-moving world of funded startups and VC, PE & M&A deals. We want reporters who can tell our readers what is really happening in these sectors and why it matters to markets, companies and consumers. The ability to write precisely and urgently is crucial for these roles. Ideal candidates must have to ability to work in a collaborative, dynamic, and fast-changing environment. We want our new hires to be digitally savvy and ready to experiment with new forms of storytelling. Most importantly, we are looking for hard-hitting reporters who work well in a team. Collaboration and collegiality are a must.

Following vacancies can be applied for (only in Singapore).

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  • A reporter to track companies/startups that have raised private capital, and have the potential to become unicorns. SEA currently has over 40 companies with a valuation of over $100 million and under $1 billion.
  • A reporter who can get behind the scenes and reveal how funding rounds are put together, or why they’ve failed to materialise. She/he in this role will largely focus on long-format stories. 
  • A journalist to track special situations funds, distressed debt and private credit (from the PE angle) across Asia.