As a content company, Tencent’s previous business layout rarely involved hardware. On January 10, 2022, it was revealed that Tencent would fully acquire the gaming phone maker Black Shark.
Later, in the installation package of nearly 1G size after the mobile QQ update, some netizens found that the Unreal 4 engine was built in it, and QQ was also dubbed “Tencent’s first 3A masterpiece in 2022”. It is also reported that its subsidiary Tianmei Studio is rushing to produce a 3A masterpiece that “benchmarks” the virtual community “Oasis” in “Ready Player One”.
Social networking is Tencent’s DNA, and gaming is Tencent’s advantage. After making up for the hardware gap, it can be said that Tencent has the best deck of cards on the Metaverse’s poker table. However, although there are many Metaverse-related companies in Tencent’s investment landscape, including high-quality companies such as “the first stock of the Metaverse” Roblox, Tencent itself, the seemingly comprehensive layout is actually a step behind.
Baidu’s “Xi Rong” and NetEase’s “Yaotai” have been launched. Even Huawei has launched an AR interactive experience app. Although the newly acquired Black Shark has made up for Tencent’s shortcomings in hardware, it may not be possible in a short time. Taking out more mature equipment to join the hardware battlefield, ByteDance, on the other hand, has spent 9 billion yuan to acquire Pico, a domestic head VR equipment manufacturer, as early as August 2021, directly entering the VR track.
In the eyes of Yu Jianing, Executive Director of the China E-Link Metaverse Industry Committee, the Metaverse is essentially the third-generation Internet, a higher-dimensional digital space on top of the PC Internet and the mobile Internet. The Metaverse is embodied in multiple core dimensions (indicators), including computing power, responsiveness, fidelity, immersion, interactivity, user autonomy, digital property protection, digital currency payment, etc. Different companies have different strengths (0-100) or focus on these dimensions (1%-100%), but they can all be Metaverse companies.
So, has Tencent figured out how to make the Metaverse?
01In the chat software, install a game engine
At the beginning of 2022, mobile QQ will be upgraded to version 8.8.55, which is also the first update of mobile QQ since all Tencent’s APPs were suspended in 2021.
Some netizens found that the size of the QQ installation package for the iOS version has reached 879MB, even the size of a medium-sized mobile game. Netease’s mobile game “Guangyu” has a volume of only 1.05G. Through disassembly, the installation package data of the IOS version , and found traces of Unreal Engine 4.
The so-called Unreal Engine is actually a collection of game tools. As a standard tool for the development of AAA games, large-scale games such as “Jedi Survival”, “Peace Elite”, and “Dead by Daylight” are all made with Unreal Engine 4 as a tool.In response to the related questions on Zhihu, Unreal Engine officially responded, “This time, the UE4 embedded in QQ’s IOS should be transformed by their team.” According to the official explanation of Unreal Engine, the transformed Unreal Engine is equivalent to the mobile phone QQ. Embedded a 3D rendering interaction function, and also speculated, “I believe the QQ team has a bigger vision.”
However, as a chat software, it takes a lot of effort to embed a professional 3D engine, which leads to a substantial increase in the size of the software installation package. This approach seems unreasonable. It means putting the cart before the horse, but QQ has its own considerations. According to industry analysts, the embedded Unreal Engine may be used to render the Super QQ Show.
Since the launch of the QQ Show in the early 2000s, the social entertainment attributes of QQ have become more and more obvious. When QQ was moved from PC to mobile, QQ Show was not transplanted. It was not until 2016, when QQ mobile phone went online, that QQ users could also meet the needs of personalized image customization on their mobile phones. At that time, Ma Huateng once said to He Yang, the product manager of QQ CM Show and also the person in charge of QQ Show at that time, “I said long ago that QQ show can be realized on mobile phones!”
Today, mobile QQ has returned to the era of QQ show. At the end of 2021, Tencent has already started the internal testing of the new function Super QQ Show. In the upper right corner of the news page, the super QQ show has replaced the position of the camera, and users can DIY the faces and facial features of the characters. , and character outfits, and the former 2D virtual characters have been upgraded to 3D images, and the background has also become a 3D background similar to the VR effect. If the guess is true, then after this update, the addition of Unreal Engine will undoubtedly greatly improve the beauty of the avatar image.
During the internal testing of the Super QQ Show, some netizens speculated that this was a signal that Tencent entered the Metaverse. After all, avatars are probably the first products to be popularized by the “Metaverse”, and the earliest personal avatar customization known to netizens is precisely the QQ show.
In the past two years, virtual characters have shown their talents in the real world. Teresa Teng’s virtual image and singer Zhou Shen sang on the same stage, and the AI anchor broadcasted the news 24 hours a day, comparable to a professional host. According to the statistics of station B, more than 32,000 virtual anchors will start broadcasting at station B in 2020, and the customization of avatars of personal anchors has also become a business.
Before virtual anchors became commonplace, “low profile” personal avatar customization had already appeared on major platforms. In 2018, Zepeto, the 3D avatar customization software, had been in the top 12 months of AppStore China, and in 2019, Taobao Life was launched. Every Taobao person can have a personal avatar of his own, which reminds many people of their youth when they played QQ show ten years ago.
The most direct purpose of this mobile QQ update is probably to “retain” young users. After all, QQ’s performance in the past two years has not been satisfactory. The monthly active data is less than 600 million, which is even more powerful than WeChat’s 1.225 billion monthly active users. Weak, as an established social software, QQ really needs to make some changes to attract young users. The super QQ show, which plays the role of personal avatar customization, is indeed the most suitable channel to meet the personalized needs of young people.
However, if it is only for the super QQ show, it would be overkill to carry the Unreal Engine, but if it is used as a user image carrier to enter the Metaverse in the future, everything will be more reasonable. However, only software, Tencent is not satisfied.
02Buy a mobile phone factory to do VR
On January 10, 2022, according to 36Kr report, Tencent plans to acquire Black Shark mobile phone at a price of 2.6 billion. After the acquisition, it will all be included in the PCG business group.
Tencent’s image has always been “investment addiction”. The Unreal Engine embedded in the mobile QQ installation package this time also comes from Epic Games, which has invested in it. If you look at its investment experience, you can find that Tencent has always been on the basis of the “general direction”. Cast a wide net”. According to statistics, in the whole year of 2021, Tencent will invest 301 times, and the sector with the most investment is games.
Games are Tencent’s Golden Bull business. According to data released by the Sensor Tower store on January 11, Tencent’s “PUBG Mobile” (combined with “Peace Elite” revenue) and “Honor of Kings” will both have global revenue of more than $2.8 billion in 2021, winning the 1 and 2 on the global mobile game bestseller list. The IEG (Interactive Entertainment Group) is in charge of game-related business, but the game mobile phone manufacturer Black Shark acquired this time is included in the PCG business group in charge of social platforms and content platforms.
According to industry analysts, this time Black Shark will become Tencent’s target, perhaps due to its years of accumulation in the game industry. Before that, nearly half of the shares of Black Shark were in the hands of Xiaomi, which mainly aimed at the subdivision of game mobile phones. However, the configuration of ordinary mobile phones can already meet most game scenarios, and the “professionalism” of game mobile phones is high. , Most consumers do not specifically buy this type of mobile phone, and the situation of Black Shark mobile phones is becoming more and more embarrassing.
Black Shark, who is less than four years old, has experienced ups and downs from first to fourth in the gaming mobile phone industry. Heavy gamers are still a minority. Black Shark has to lower its goal to living. It was bought by Tencent from Xiaomi, which may also be the wish of Black Shark. Xiaomi, who is a mobile phone manufacturer, has helped the young Black Shark a lot, but Xiaomi has also dabbled in the subdivision of the game.
In 2021, Redmi released an enhanced version of the K40 game model. The pressure came to the Black Shark. Whether it was included or sold, the future of the Black Shark became a single-choice question.
Before Black Shark, Tencent competed with Byte for Pico, which ended in failure. And Black Shark stood at the crossroads of fate and happened to meet Tencent, which failed to acquire Pico. There are rumors that Black Shark’s asking price is 3 billion, and Tencent’s budget is 2 billion. After the acquisition intention of Byte appeared, Tencent raised the price to 2.6 billion.
Tencent, which once declared that it “doesn’t do hardware”, is now starting to deploy hardware in order to catch up with the Metaverse. If the rumors are true, then Tencent’s determination to do hardware may not be as big as imagined, and the acquisition of Black Shark is only a matter of The general trend.
But what is certain is that the Metaverse has been written on Tencent’s “To Do List”. At the end of 2020, Ma Huateng proposed the concept of “full true Internet”, which is very similar to the Metaverse. He emphasized that the “full Internet” is the next battle that Tencent must win.
Compared with the price of Pico 9 billion, the acquisition of Black Shark is undoubtedly more cost-effective. As the first test of Tencent’s entry into hardware research and development, Black Shark’s size and technical capabilities are still passable. With Tencent’s high-quality content resources, the final result is impressive. expect.
It is worth noting that Yao Xiaoguang, the head of IEG, is currently the head of PCG, and Tianmei Studio, a subsidiary of IEG, will publish a recruitment notice through the Internet in September 2021. According to the recruitment position and job description, it can be inferred that the name is The new project of “ZPlan” is probably the 3A masterpiece mentioned in the article published by Tencent employee Mao Xingyun in March 2021, that is, a large-scale open virtual world game that Tencent is preparing for the “Oasis”.
It can be said that the current Tencent has concentrated the social, game and hardware entrances required by the Metaverse. However, Tencent seems to have a comprehensive layout, but in fact, it may be one step behind.
03 How many steps away is Tencent from the Metaverse?
Tencent’s thoughts on the Metaverse may have started a little earlier than any major factory.
As early as 2020, Roblox received an olive branch from Tencent, and in 2021, it will be listed as the “first stock of the Metaverse”, and the concept of “Metaverse” has been popular all over the world since then. On the evening of January 10, 2022, at the Tencent Holdings 2021 third quarter results conference call, Tencent CEO Ma Huateng publicly responded to the topic of the Metaverse for the first time, he said, “The Metaverse is an exciting topic, and I believe Tencent has a lot of exploration. We have extensive experience in developing Metaverse technologies and capabilities, such as in gaming, social media, and artificial intelligence-related fields.”
However, “VRchat”, which was launched as a Windows App on January 16, 2014 and landed on Steam in 2017, may have more say in the social aspects of the Metaverse than anyone else. Due to the extremely high degree of freedom, players who appear in the game with a personalized 3D image can free themselves in the game and discover many gameplay that the game does not have. The game supports PC-side operation and VR device access. Players can also achieve free movement of characters through motion capture technology.
In the domestic social platform, no one can shake Tencent’s position. WeChat and QQ have almost become the “basic configuration” of online social networking. This QQ internal test 3D version of the super QQ show may mean that the future QQ may move towards The direction of VRchat development.
In terms of VR hardware, Tencent can also find predecessors. As early as 2014, Facebook (now known as Meta) spent $3 billion to acquire Oculus VR. Users can download various games and programs from the application platform through the Oculus Quest Store. Hardware devices complement each other.
According to Counterpoint Research statistics, in the first quarter of 2021, the company’s devices accounted for 75% of the global VR device shipments, and the market share was so large that it even attracted the attention of the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC). It is currently reviewing whether Oculus has Suspected monopoly.
Apple’s VR wearable device is also on the way. According to media reports, the price of the device is expected to exceed $1,000. Compared with the $299 price of Oculus, this high price may mean that Apple will bring more amazing products. .
The acquisition of Black Shark has completed the last piece of the “Tencent Metaverse” puzzle. The layout of both software and hardware is still ahead in terms of width.
In the domestic market, the competition of “Metaverse” software is in full swing. Baidu launched the virtual community “Xi Rong”, and Alibaba established an XR laboratory, mainly to study AR and VR related technologies. On the day NetEase Cloud was listed, Ding Lei knocked on the gong on NetEase’s immersive virtual platform “Yaotai”, while JD.com used virtual anchors , trying to create a “shopping Metaverse”.
In contrast, Tencent, which has long been concerned about the Metaverse, has yet to come up with a more mature Metaverse product. Excluding a large number of Metaverse companies that it has invested in, Tencent probably only has Tianmei as a trump card. However, judging from the current news, the 3A masterpiece that Tianmei Studio is preparing is still far away.
In the hardware market related to the Metaverse, VR equipment is becoming a new outlet. ByteDance successfully acquired VR manufacturer Pico. Xiaomi and Huawei have successively launched smart glasses, but Huawei will officially launch the AR of Cyberverse (Hetu) at the end of 2021. The interactive experience app “Starlight Tower” has become one of the few major manufacturers with both software and hardware. Now, Tencent is added to this list.
At present, VR technology has matured. Judging from Black Shark’s technical team and Tencent’s financial resources, Tencent’s VR equipment is only a matter of time, but it is obviously difficult to come up with more mature products to join the battlefield in a short period of time.
As the third-generation Internet form, the Metaverse has become a must for big Internet companies, but as one of the big companies with the most “Metaverse” genes on the poker table, Tencent is the only one that hasn’t come up with a corresponding product. that one.
“I believe that another major reshuffle is about to begin. Just like the transformation of the mobile Internet, those who can’t get on the boat will gradually fall behind.” Ma Huateng once said. Today’s Tencent, before the implementation of relevant application policies, continues to choose a strategic layout that does not make a strong appearance.
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