Meet NetEase, China’s second-largest game publisher
Beijing-based NetEase is a gaming giant, with exclusive rights to Blizzard titles in China. It also makes its own games including Knives Out and Onmyoji, and owns the Shanghai Dragons Overwatch team.
With a market cap close to Take-Two Interactive, Ubisoft and Square Enix combined, NetEase is China’s second-largest gaming company behind Tencent.
Founded in 1997 by William Ding, NetEase is an old guard of China’s internet business and one of the country’s earliest gaming companies. Although it’s been listed on NASDAQ since 2000, the company was little known in the West until recent years, when it started an aggressive expansion there.
If you’re a fan of the classic sci-fi shooting games Halo or Destiny, NetEase is a name you should know. In June 2018, NetEase announced it would pump US$100 million into Halo’s creator Bungie, to help it develop a new line of games apart from its Destiny franchise.
And if you are a fan of the MMORPG (Massively multiplayer online role-playing games), EVE Online, NetEase has said it’s working on an AR version of the game.
All this only scratches the surface of the massive gaming empire that NetEase has built. Back home in China, the gaming industry is increasingly looking like a duopoly between Tencent and NetEase -- both being fertile publishers of foreign games.
While Tencent holds the rights to League of Legends, Fortnite and PUBG in China, NetEase also holds an impressive portfolio including Minecraft and major titles from Blizzard: World of Warcraft, Overwatch, and StarCraft II.
But NetEase, more so than Tencent, also has a long tradition of developing its own titles. Before World of Warcraft took China by storm, the country’s most popular MMORPG was NetEase’s own Fantasy Westward Journey, which boasted over 310 million players.
NetEase has continued to develop Fantasy Westward Journey, including porting it onto mobile. It was China’s third highest-grossing mobile game in the first half of 2018, and the world’s seventh in the third quarter.
Other self-developed titles are also making a splash overseas.
Games like Onmyoji and Onmyoji Arena have gained massive traction in places like Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.
NetEase’s PUBG Mobile clone, Knives Out, was Japan’s most downloaded iOS game for several months in 2018 -- and reportedly raked in more than 250 million users globally. It’s become so popular that Sony said the game would make an appearance on PlayStation 4 in 2019.
Besides gaming, NetEase also runs various other internet services, such as music streaming and free email accounts.