The NetEase Games booth at the China Joy conference in Shanghai on July 30, 2021.
Arjun Kharpal | CNBC
GUANGZHOU/HANGZHOU, China — NetEase is gearing up to release a major game it hopes will boost its international expansion efforts as competition intensifies with incumbent Tencent and newcomer ByteDance.
In a rare interview with international media, Hu Zhipeng, vice president at NetEase and one of the top bosses of the technology giant’s video games business, laid out the company’s plans for growing revenue overseas. He also talked about NetEase dipping its toes into new areas including console and cloud gaming.
The push overseas comes at a time when Chinese regulators are scrutinizing the country’s technology giants and as concerns over a further crackdown on the gaming sector rise.
On Thursday, NetEase will release “Naraka: Bladepoint” globally, a 60-player action battle royale style game in which gamers compete to be the last player standing. Other popular games in the genre include “Fortnite,” for example.
“Naraka: Bladepoint” is targeting international gamers. NetEase hopes that 50% of its gaming revenue will come from overseas in the future, up from around 10% now, Hu said.
To achieve that, NetEase is looking at using famous brands or intellectual property (IP) to tap overseas players. The Hangzhou-headquartered company is developing games based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic “The Lord of the Rings” as well as J.K. Rowling’s “Harry Potter” series.
The second part of the strategy involves releasing games of genres popular outside of China. That’s where “Naraka: Bladepoint” comes in.
It combines Chinese culture with the battle royale gameplay known by players globally, according to Hu.
“We also try to combine Chinese traditional culture with game genres that more western gamers are familiar with, to create novel games,” Hu told CNBC, according to a translation of his Mandarin comments.
He said western gamers “won’t find it hard to play the game, while they can be interested in eastern cultures. This can create brand-new experience for western gamers.”
A screenshot from NetEase’s “Naraka: Bladepoint” battle royale game that will be released globally on August 12. “Naraka: Bladepoint” is part of NetEase’s push to expand internationally.
NetEase has not been as aggressive so far on its international expansion like Tencent has. The latter has focused on a strategy of acquiring major gaming companies like “League of Legends” maker Riot Games, as well as taking stakes in many other studios.
NetEase, meanwhile, has focused on minority stakes in companies around the world such as Niantic, which makes “Pokemon Go.”
Hu said the company is continuing to look for investments and partnerships internationally.
“We are looking for overseas partners in terms of game R&D (research and development) and releasing (games) through direct investment or cooperation,” Hu said.
Chinese game developers like NetEase and Tencent have typically been strong in PC and…