Mobile gaming is hugely popular in China, home to the largest number
of smartphone users in the world. In 2013, mobile gaming revenue
accounted for 11.24 billion yuan ($1.86 billion), or 13.5 percent of
the overall Chinese video gaming market, the world's third largest.
Liu Chunning, a former Tencent executive who now heads Alibaba's
digital entertainment business, said in a statement the mobile
gaming platform would be offered free to developers for the first
He did not say, however, when it would be set up and the statement
gave few other details.
Alibaba spokeswoman Florence Shih said the platform would be
launched in the near future. "We're not making mobile games, we're
the platform operator," she added.
A person familiar with the matter said the platform may have its own
dedicated app or could be integrated into existing Alibaba apps such
as e-commerce app Mobile Taobao or Laiwang, a social messaging app.
Alibaba's platform will have to compete with Tencent, which reported
revenue of 338 million yuan ($55.86 million) from mobile gaming in
the January-March quarter of last year.
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Tencent's social messaging app WeChat, which includes games, is used
by more than half of all Chinese smartphone users. The number of
monthly active WeChat users grew 124 percent year-on-year in the
third quarter of 2013, and figures from domestic app stores showing
Tencent's mobile games are also hugely popular.
In October, Japanese tech and telecoms group SoftBank Corp, which
has a 36.7 percent stake in Alibaba, agreed to pay $1.53 billion for
a 51 percent stake in Finnish mobile game maker Supercell, valuing
the small firm which generated hit games like "Clash of Clans" and
"Hay Day" at $3 billion.
It was not immediately clear whether Alibaba would leverage that
relationship to its advantage.
Alibaba is widely expected to launch an IPO this year. It has been
conservatively estimated to be worth over $100 billion.
($1 = 6.0512
(Reporting by Paul Carsten; writing by
Adam Rose; editing by Miral Fahmy)
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