Spider-Man's chat app is real (and it's huge in China)
Into the Spider-Verse's Miles Morales uses QQ thanks to a tie-up with Tencent
The new (and amazing) Spider-Man film might be animated, but it’s filled with real brands. Into the Spider-Verse takes place in a highly stylised version of New York, combining CGI, animation and comic styling to create something striking and unique -- and show a world where very different dimensions are colliding.
Littered around this very unreal setting are famous names from our own reality. Hero Miles Morales wears a pair of Air Jordans. There’s a huge Coca-Cola billboard in Times Square. And when Miles whips out his smartphone to text his friends and family, he’s using QQ, a real chat app.
You probably didn’t recognise it because it’s not an app anyone outside of China is likely to know.
But QQ is huge. It’s Tencent’s original messaging app, and has over 800 million users. They’re mostly in China -- almost entirely, even -- which makes that number even more impressive.
QQ is often overshadowed by WeChat, and understandably so: The latter has become virtually indispensable in China. It has over a billion users, is used as a form of payment, it’s being trialled as a virtual ID card, and in some cities, police can even send people fines for jaywalking through WeChat.
Before WeChat, there was QQ. Dating all the way back to 1999, it’s “inspired by” ICQ, one of the first instant messaging services. QQ exploded in popularity, but like ICQ, it was mostly for computers. When smartphones emerged, Tencent wanted to create a messaging app tailored for the devices that would come to virtually rule our existence.
But WeChat’s dominance is seemingly offering QQ a route back to relevance. Everyone is on WeChat -- so teens reportedly think WeChat isn’t cool anymore, and they’re flocking to QQ again.
QQ’s appearance in the film ties into this. It is, predictably, part of a marketing campaign that’ll see plenty of Spider-Verse content -- from ads to augmented reality to stickers -- roll out across the app, giving Sony a lot of mind-share among younger users in China.
Still, its seemingly widespread presence in New York, even a fictional one, is so far from reality that it’s hard not to see it as jarring. But at the same time, the film’s story -- revolving around multiple parallel universes, all different -- can easily justify it.
After all, if the Spider-Verse has an alternate universe where Spider-Man is a cartoon pig named Spider-Ham, is it that hard to believe there may be a version of reality where this Chinese chat app made it big in America?