ByteDance, owner of popular short video sharing social media app TikTok, has acquired Moonton. According to a Reuters report, the deal values the mobile gaming studio at $4 billion. ByteDance’s gaming division Nuverse was the force behind the purchase.
The move is seen as a strengthening of ByteDance’s intentions to compete against gaming and tech giant Tencent.
According to reports, Tencent was among the parties interested in acquiring Moonton, however their bad was matched by ByteDance. Both Tencent and Moonton were on opposite sides of a copyright infringement lawsuit that ended in a court awarding Tencent $2.9 million.
Moonton is best known as the developer of Mobile Legends, the wildly popular MOBA for smart devices. Although Moonton is based in China, Mobile Legends is banned there. The majority of its active player base of nearly 80 million users comes from Southeast Asia, where Mobile Legends has become a cultural phenomenon and driving force for the growth and acceptance of esports in the region. In February of this year, the Mobile Legends Professional League Indonesia had a peak viewership of more than 600,000.
Moonton’s strong position in non-China Asian markets is what attracted interest from ByteDance. According to ByteDance, the acquisition is expected to “help expand our gaming strategy in international markets.”
This isn’t the first time ByteDance has been involved in a gaming project. Last year, the company helped Gravity bring Ragnarok X: Next Generation to Southeast Asia.
The acquisition can also be viewed as a continuation of ByteDance’s ambitions to conquer the Southeast Asian market. ByteDance is also heavily invested in promoting TikTok and its sister apps, messaging service Lark and music streaming platform Resso, in Southeast Asia. With more than 360 million downloads in Southeast Asia alone and 151% year-on-year growth for 2020, TikTok is one of the fastest growing social media apps in the world.