Tencent and Roblox announce game partnership amid tech cold war

May 31, 2019 12:28
"Heroes of Robloxia," a popular game on Roblox. The multiplayer online gaming platform everybody to create games, and pays out part of the income to them. Photo: Roblox

US-based gaming company Roblox, which encourages everybody to create their own games on its platform, announced a partnership with Chinese internet giant Tencent Holdings (00700.HK) amid rising worries of a tech "cold war" between the United States and China.

The partnership involves setting up a joint venture to foster innovation among students and teachers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) learning, by blending gaming and education.

The joint venture will initially focus on teaching coding fundamentals, game design, digital citizenships, and entrepreneurial skills, said Steven Ma, senior vice-president of Tencent, in an interview with Chinese state-owned newspaper China Daily.

He said Roblox will contribute technologies while Tencent will provide platforms and localization of the offerings.

"Tencent is the perfect partner for Roblox in China," Roblox founder and chief executive Dave Baszucki said in a press release. "They have a deep understanding of the Chinese market and share our belief of the power of digital creation and our vision to bring the world together through play."

The multi-year joint venture will continue to invest in educational initiatives, including local coding camps and training programs for instructors to build custom courses.

Under the tie-up, Tencent is partnering with educational institutions and individual teachers to offer coding tools and tool kits for both Chinese children and teachers, offering a customized curriculum through digital means.

Tencent expects the program to attract about 40 million to 50 million users across the nation.

Founded in 2006, California-based Roblox has over 90 million monthly active players globally, generally 17 to 22 years of age.

The multiplayer online gaming platform encourages everybody to create their own games. Roblox gets a share of the revenue the games make through sales of virtual goods and pays out part of the income to the developers.

All 40 million games within Roblox, such as “Meep City” and “Jailbreak”, were made by its young independent developers.

In 2017, Roblox said it paid out US$30 million to its creator community, and expected that number to more than double in 2018. It had 4 million developers building games for its platform as of 2017, according to Business Insider.

Roblox raised US$150 million in its latest funding round in September, led by Greylock Partners and Tiger Global Management, raising its valuation to over US$2.5 billion. It has so far raised US$185 million from its funding rounds.

As part of its plans to enter the massive Chinese market, Roblox has recently added support for Chinese language and made its coding curriculum available for free in Chinese.

In the press statement, both companies expect the joint venture to create opportunities for local Chinese developers to leverage the global Roblox ecosystem, with the ultimate goal of bringing Roblox to China.

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