Under the strong attraction of the Metaverse, Tencent began to start with VR hardware.
This time, the Black Shark mobile phone was acquired by Tencent. Recently, it was reported that Tencent plans to acquire the game mobile phone company Black Shark Technology. After the acquisition, the Black Shark will be integrated into the Tencent Group Platform and Content Business Group (PCG) led by Ren Yuxin. ). After the transaction is completed, Black Shark’s future business focus will shift from gaming phones to VR devices as a whole.
It is speculated that this move by Tencent is closely related to its layout of the Metaverse. In the future, it is very likely that Tencent will provide content and Black Shark will provide VR hardware access. Outside speculation, this may mean that Tencent will go further in the Metaverse and officially enter the hardware field.
The fate of the black shark phone
The birth of the Black Shark mobile phone comes on the eve of the tug-of-war for domestic mobile phones to enter the stock market.
Wu Shimin, co-founder and CEO of Black Shark Technology, is a veteran of the mobile phone industry. He used to be the president of Huawei’s mobile broadband terminal product line and was mainly responsible for Huawei’s Maimang/G series mobile phones. He has created a single sales record of over 10 million. In 2018, when the domestic mobile phone pattern was basically clear, Wu Shimin, who did not believe in evil, decided to go in and make a foray, and his choice was the virgin land of the industry at that time-game mobile phones.
In fact, as early as 2017, Wu Shimin led the team to introduce the products and plans of Black Shark Technology to Lei Jun on the high-speed train bound for Beijing. Five hours later, he received a seed round of investment of 11 million yuan.What Lei Jun sees is the professional capabilities of Black Shark Technology and its potential in market segments.
In order to help Black Shark improve its competitiveness, Xiaomi is not thin. The first is to open channels. Xiaomi users can purchase all Black Shark products on the official Xiaomi platform and Xiaomi Youpin. In Xiaomi’s eyes, Xiaomi products are mainly aimed at young users, which intersects with Black Shark’s positioning and can help it quickly acquire new customers.
In addition, Xiaomi opened up its supply chain to Black Shark Technology. Black Shark phones can get the same hardware configuration of Xiaomi’s high-end phones at a faster speed and at a lower cost. “If Black Shark Technology can speed up the pace of product iteration, Xiaomi doesn’t mind giving up the right to launch high-end hardware.” This remark shows that Xiaomi is full of expectations for Black Shark Technology.
For this new field, Wu Shimin is also ambitious. He hopes to use games as a fulcrum to try to explore opportunities in vertical fields, use a narrower and more professional discourse system, communicate with more diverse users, and use professional Products build a moat for differentiation.
Facts have proved that with the help of Xiaomi, the Black Shark mobile phone has indeed shown a good product strength.According to the data, Black Shark Technology has launched several gaming mobile phones, and Black Shark is currently the first manufacturer of gaming mobile phone market share.
But another status quo has never been resolved – the gaming phone market is not as big as imagined. According to estimates, the domestic mobile game user market is about 700 million, but game mobile phones have always been small. The total shipment in 2020 is only about 1.6 million units. Compared with the sales of smartphones, which are often hundreds of millions, the sales volume can be described as bleak.
Behind this is the questioning of the “pseudo-demand” of the game phone by the game phone. Most gamers will find that the games they often play on the game phone are actually the games they often play, and there are no exclusive games like Nintendo. In addition, liquid cooling, lighting, ultra-high battery life, 4K screen, dual X-axis linear motors, and manufacturer customization optimization, etc., all gaming phones have similar configurations, and even ordinary phones can meet daily gaming needs. Whether or not to buy an “alternative” gaming phone alone for these tasteless functions has become the doubt of most people.
On the other hand, there is also competition within Xiaomi, such as Redmi.
In April 2021, Redmi released an enhanced version of the K40 game, focusing on game scenarios. Some industry insiders said that Redmi’s original plan was to establish a separate gaming phone series, but this idea was opposed internally by Black Shark. “In the end, it also reached the level of Lei Jun. Xiaomi divided into two camps. Lu Weibing wanted to do it himself (game phone), but some executives supported Black Shark.” The end result is that Redmi just integrated this gaming phone into the K40 series and released it as a variant.
Such a competitive relationship also makes the living space of the Black Shark smaller and smaller. Xiaomi finally chose the former between Redmi and Black Shark. In fact, this situation has emerged as early as the beginning of 2020. Wu Shimin announced on Weibo Shangguan that he will step down as the CEO of Nanchang Black Shark Technology next, and the position will be taken over by co-founder Luo Yuzhou.
However, although the prospect of gaming mobile phones is not broad, the Black Shark itself has considerable value, which is the main reason why Tencent invested in this acquisition.
Tencent’s acquisition of Black Shark Technology generally has two considerations: First, the Black Shark Technology team is from Huawei and has the advantage of hardware supply chain. Moreover, Black Shark joined hands with AR glasses manufacturer Rokid to appear at 2021 ChinaJoy earlier, to jointly explore the immersive large-screen experience on the mobile terminal, and have a certain experience in VR development. The second is that a person in charge of Tencent Interactive Entertainment is familiar with the Black Shark technology team, and Ren Yuxin has a Huawei background, and the two sides have a foundation of trust.
Therefore, Tencent’s acquisition of Black Shark may be a win-win outcome for both. Black Shark got rid of Xiaomi’s internal runs and market restrictions, and Tencent also obtained a team that is familiar with and has good R&D capabilities. Break-in is obviously crucial.
Join Tencent Metaverse
“There are some key opportunities in the growth of the company. You can fly farther if you can’t make it, but if you can’t make it, you will fall behind or even fall.” In an article posted by Tencent’s official media “Tencent Culture” in 2020, Ma Huateng once so expressed. These key opportunities, in the past, were Tencent’s game business, WeChat business, and short videos that made a difference, but now it is likely to be the Metaverse.
At the end of 2020, Ma Huateng wrote in the internal publication “Three Views”, “An exciting opportunity is coming. After ten years of development of the mobile Internet, the next wave of upgrades is about to be ushered in. We call it the true Internet.” He said , The doors of the virtual world and the real world have been opened. Whether it is from the virtual to the real, or from the real to the virtual, it is committed to helping users achieve a more realistic experience.
For the “full true Internet”, Ma Huateng believes that it is the next battle that Tencent must win.
At that time, the concept of the Metaverse had not yet emerged, but after Facebook brought this concept to the fire, Tencent quickly followed. Strictly speaking, in fact, Tencent’s layout may be earlier. Both Epic Games and the first Roblox of the Metaverse have Tencent’s presence. Tencent has also invested in VR game developers Wei Mo Era and Yunnan Box Monster, and plans to set up new games. studio. Even, the current Tencent has registered more than 20 Metaverse related trademarks such as “Cube Metaverse”, “Peace Metaverse”, “Elite Metaverse” and “King Metaverse”.
The research report “Metaverse 2022 – Accumulated Power” released by Peking University HSBC Business School and Essence Securities pointed out that Tencent has the superior conditions to deploy the Metaverse. Through the combination of capital (acquisition & investment) + traffic (social platform), the future It will be laid out like building blocks to explore the Metaverse realm. Specifically, Tencent focuses on three major directions: the underlying architecture (engine Unreal Engine), back-end infrastructure (cloud services, big data centers), content and scenarios (various types of content products and a mature social network interconnection ecosystem). .
But in Tencent’s layout, there is always a “hard flaw”, that is, the lack of hardware entrance to the Metaverse, which is also a key factor in whether the Metaverse imagination can truly be implemented.
Therefore, Facebook has bought Oculus for 2 billion US dollars, and ByteDance also spent 9 billion yuan to buy Pico. In fact, Pico Tencent also had the idea of acquiring. Tencent participated in negotiations as early as March 2021, but chose to give up after Byte joined the bidding.
But this does not mean that Tencent has stopped its pursuit of VR portals. “All AR/VR projects on the market have been in contact with Tencent.” A source said that the projects that have been contacted include Da Peng, Yingchuang, Xiaobian Pie, HTC, iQiyi Smart, etc.
Now, Tencent’s attention has shifted to Black Shark. So is Black Shark capable of taking on the heavy responsibility of Tencent VR research and development? A person familiar with the Black Shark team said that the Black Shark team is mainly composed of research and development, and most of them come from mobile phone companies such as Coolpad and Huawei. “. After integrating into the Tencent system, an important task of Black Shark is how to increase the manpower to develop VR equipment and make up for these technical shortcomings.
However, such speculation is clearly too optimistic. The most critical reason is that Tencent lacks hardware genes. As early as 2010, Tencent invested and participated in the B round of investment in the Big Q mobile phone and acquired it in 2012. However, over the years, the Big Q mobile phone has almost no voice in the market. .
In the same year, Tencent teamed up with TCL to launch the world’s first mobile terminal with a mobile smart screen. At that time, Tencent said that it was the first attempt to integrate into home application scenarios, hoping to meet the needs of users to quickly switch between different application scenarios. Since then, Tencent has prepared to launch WeChat TV with Skyworth and TCL. But the embarrassing thing is that the above-mentioned move of entering hardware products did not even cause any splash in the market, and Tencent with strong content can only admit it.
As for the transformation of Black Shark into VR products, whether Tencent will repeat the mistakes of previous hardware products, it is still difficult for the outside world to make a conclusion. However, when Black Shark, which is separated from Xiaomi, turns to VR, the previous channel advantages and supply chain advantages will no longer exist, and the road ahead will become blurred.
Tencent’s big game?
The concept of the Metaverse continues to be hot, and all the big Internet companies are eager to try it out. The big companies with a lot of resources and funds are considered to be the most qualified players on the Metaverse track.
When big manufacturers are laying out the Metaverse, content is undoubtedly very important, which determines what content and scenes users can see, followed by the core production factor (artificial intelligence) in the Metaverse, and then supporting the stability of the Metaverse. The running back-end infrastructure and underlying architecture (engine/development tools/digital twin/blockchain), and the last and most important is the hardware entry and operating system that provide the Metaverse experience.
In this regard, the forerunner Meta is already testing the waters.
After acquiring the VR headset company Oculus for $2 billion in 2014, one of Meta’s follow-up focuses is to acquire CP manufacturers, such as the VR audio game “Rhythm Lightsaber”, and then focus on the development of AR and VR operating systems. Zuckerberg said: “If you’re going to build a piece of smart glasses that looks like this, you probably need to optimize the system quite a bit so that you can get the same computing performance as a computer.”
According to media reports, Meta has now invested nearly 20% of its employees in VR/AR-related businesses. Meta’s VR/AR business is part of the same division, Facebook Reality Labs, led by company veteran Andrew Bosworth.
Obviously, self-developed operating systems have almost become the only way to get a head start in the Metaverse War.
Fortunately, Tencent has accumulated some experience in VR operating systems before. As early as 2015, Tencent announced its own VR game ecological strategy at the miniStation micro-game console conference. At the same time, its VR official website was officially launched, and Tencent’s VR global developer recruitment plan was also in progress.
At that time, Tencent’s positioning direction for the future use of VR was mainly in the fields of games, film and television, social networking, online, and maps. And entertainment content is obviously an important consumption of VR, followed by life. Tencent’s VR global developer recruitment plan also focuses on supporting developers from four aspects: account system, social system, distribution platform, and payment platform.
However, the operating system did not make much waves in the end, which is quite similar to Tencent OS, which was developed based on Android.
In 2015, Tencent officially launched Tencent OS, which is an operating system developed based on the QQ/WeChat account system, covering mobile phones, watches, game consoles, VR, and automobile multi-terminal platforms. But by the end of June 2018, Tencent announced the closure of the Tencent OS service, and said that Tencent OS will withdraw from the historical stage because of the sluggish third-party Android ROM market.
The most fundamental problem is that Tencent lacks hardware genes, and its software-only mobile phone system ROM is not very competitive. That is to say, without the support of excellent hardware equipment, it is difficult for Tencent OS to find a suitable growth soil, not to mention that the operating systems of manufacturers such as Xiaomi, Meizu, Huawei and OV are not inferior.
Such a failure inevitably made Tencent begin to sum up its experience. As the key to the Metaverse, VR headsets have been considered as the next generation of personal general-purpose computing devices to replace smartphones, so its significance is self-evident, and it may even be related to Tencent’s strategic success and failure to occupy the entrance to the Metaverse. no.
Therefore, the acquisition of Black Shark can be seen as a harbinger of Tencent’s determination to end up as an operating system again. After that, according to Meta’s route, Tencent’s VR operating system is likely to explore along the path of hardware-content application-operating system. .
However, the road to self-developed VR operating system is not easy. Zuckerberg once said that the development of VR system is not easy, and many problems need to be solved. The functions of running and integrating the computer in the glasses also need to consider issues such as heat dissipation and battery life.
Just recently, some media broke the news that Meta notified the employees of the reality laboratory responsible for VR and AR equipment in November, saying that it would stop the development work related to XROS. The XROS project started as early as 2017, with more than 300 people participating. The shelving of the project also marks the end of Meta’s efforts to develop an operating system for Oculus VR and possibly AR or MR devices later.
It is difficult for the outside world to know whether it is because the development of the VR operating system is blocked or because of other reasons.
To be sure, making a VR operating system is by no means a day’s work. Although Tencent has experience in this area, it lacks the experience of creating an operating system that is widely recognized by users. Moreover, in terms of hardware, Tencent does not have a good foundation. , These are the real and critical pain points in front of Tencent.
Therefore, the acquisition of Black Shark may be a crucial step for Tencent to move towards the Metaverse VR operating system, but it also means that the uncertainty in the future has increased sharply. I believe that Tencent is ready to continue investing in VR.