By Cody Perez
July 15, 2019
Arena of Valor is a massive hit in Asia, specifically, China. The Chinese-developed MOBA game takes the tried and true formula that games like League of Legends and Dota 2 created and translates it to a mobile format. More importantly, it does it so well that millions of players are enjoying it every day.
The game has more than 200 million players and counting, giving it the ability to compete on the world stage of video games alongside other greats like Fortnite and Minecraft. Despite this, it hasn’t garnered as much popularity in the West as it has in Asia.
Though North America and Europe have access to Arena of Valor (Honor of Kings in China), it hasn’t made the impact so far that it has in other regions. This is in large part due to what gamers here want from a game like this.
That’s why it was such an amazing moment when Tencent brought the game to Switch, in addition to the original mobile version. This gave players more options to choose from.
But now even that version’s future isn’t looking so swell as rumors are swirling that Arena of Valor Switch has been all but abandoned by its publisher, which would be a huge mistake.
But before I get into why Tencent shouldn’t abandon Arena of Valor Switch, let’s go over the details of why the community is beginning to think this is so. It all started when Reuters ran a report that sources had been in contact with it regarding the Switch version of the game.
According to Reuters’ sources, Tencent had decided to disband the game’s marketing teams in both Europe and North America. In addition to this, it is reconsidering how it will handle the Western versions of the game due to a lack of overwhelming success here.
To be specific, the sources claimed that the publisher is letting the game “live or die on its own course” now. It didn’t help that there was intense drama between Tencent and Riot Games regarding the MOBA title when it was brought over to North America and Europe, too.
Riot Games is owned by Tencent, but this didn’t stop the developer from claiming that Arena of Valor was stealing from its own game League of Legends. The United States-based developer believes that the game is a total rip-off of its own genre-defining title.
This was worsened when Tencent decided to promote Arena of Valor and the esports tournaments that it has going on by using League of Legends characters in the marketing materials. This led to multiple complaints from Riot Games regarding the inappropriate use of its characters.
This then resulted in a two-month freeze on all of the marketing plans for the Arena of Valor mobile and Switch versions, as solutions were figured out. Riot was given the option to veto the use of certain marketing options as well as review the marketing materials beforehand.
With all of the drama surrounding Arena of Valor Switch, it wouldn’t be surprising to hear that the marketing teams have been disbanded and the future of the game in the West is uncertain. But it still doesn’t end there, either.
The financial success of Arena of Valor mobile and Switch has been meager in the Western regions compared to Tencent’s expectations and how well it does in Asia. It only achieved around three million dollars in revenue in its first year on the mobile market, which the original Honor of Kings accomplishes in a single day.
Regardless, the complicated situation still isn’t clear at this time. About a week after the report from Reuters, Bloomberg reported that Tencent overseas marketing director Vincent Gao said that the company denies any claims that it was abandoning the game.
In addition, Gao noted that Tencent never had a marketing team in Europe, so there is no way it can disband a nonexistent team and that it is planning to expand the existing team in North America. As an active Arena of Valor Switch player, though, the future does look grim.
For starters, it lacks much of the content and characters months after its release from the mobile version. There still aren’t any of the extra modes and DC Comics characters like Batman. Plus, the addition of new characters has slowed to a crawl and looks to be halted based on how long it’s been since the last edition.
With a lack of official statement regarding plans for the Switch version of the game, the future of it is unclear. This has led to the Switch edition being far less than it could be, which is a disappointment for players like myself who enjoy its excellent MOBA offerings.
So, why would Tencent abandon the Arena of Valor Switch version anyway? It could decide to for a number of reasons, beginning with the fact that it was a mobile game first and foremost. Though the Switch version is portable, it does lack the user base that Android and iOS have.
After all, there are less than 40 million Nintendo Switch units in the entire world, whereas there are billions of mobile devices. In addition, the free to play aspect is welcomed more by the mobile gaming community than console owners like with Switch.
As such, it would make a lot of sense for Tencent to let go of the Switch, cut its losses, and double down on the mobile version of the game. After all, the only costs at this point for the mobile version are the marketing costs as well as the money required to run its servers plus any tournaments that it hosts.
In the case of the Switch version, any money that is made from it does come with a cut being taken out by Nintendo since it’s on its platform. Given that the success hasn’t been spectacular thus far, there is some sound sense in cutting losses and letting the Switch version go.
But I think this would be wrong to do.
Though there are some solid reasons for abandoning the Switch version of Arena of Valor, there are far more significant reasons as to why Tencent shouldn’t go that route. For starters, it’s too early to determine how financially successful the Switch version will be.
Though the game has been out since late last year, it’s still far from its one-year anniversary on Nintendo Switch. The results from it thus far, as such, would be incomplete without at least a full year of seeing how well it will do.
After all, Tencent can use its first anniversary as leverage to promote some in-game events and rewards for players to partake in. This would be a great way to encourage lapsed players to come back and see what’s new while ushering in a new wave of gamers who have missed it thus far.
Beyond the financial possibilities, though, there is the fact that the Switch version is lacking so much of what makes the mobile version what it is. There are whole modes, progression methods, and characters that the Switch version is lacking.
Bringing DC Comics characters like Batman and Joker to this version would generate tons of sudden interest in the game. Players would be intrigued by the idea of being able to play Wonder Woman on Switch, a feat that isn’t feasible outside of the kid-focused Lego games.
There’s also the fact that Arena of Valor Switch has a monopoly on the hybrid console at this time. Yes, there is Smite, but those two games serve different functions, and as a fan of both, I can play them equally because they offer different experiences.
Smite is much more of a radical and unique MOBA design, while Arena of Valor focuses on the traditional isometric experience. In that regard, there is no other game like Arena of Valor on Switch. If Tencent is able to leverage this monopoly, it can welcome players in who have nowhere else to go.
Last but not least, Tencent shouldn’t abandon the game because of the existing community. As a regular player, I know that there is an active community that is drawn to the title each day. Finding a new match in any of the modes is still simple enough with enough players that you don’t see the same nine other players each round.
The healthy and thriving community deserves more than a half-baked game. These are the players who are pouring in money day after day and keeping it stable. It would be a disservice to that hardcore community to abandon the game and leave them without a home to go to.
To make everything worse, a situation like that could sour the players’ view of Tencent and any of its games, making it so that any future titles on Switch or potentially other platforms could be met with disdain and less success than even Arena of Valor.
But it doesn’t have to be like that. Not only are there numerous reasons why Tencent shouldn’t abandon the game but there are ways to make the game even more successful than it already is. To begin with, there is the aforementioned addition of DC Comics characters.
Adding Superman and the gang to the title would bring in an audience that might not have downloaded the free game otherwise. Children and adult comics fans alike would be enticed to see how their favorite comics and movie characters play in the MOBA game.
Beyond that, there could be other crossover characters added that would be well worth the effort. Holding promotions with other games like Fortnite and even competitor Smite could go a long way towards pulling in new players willing to spend their precious time and money.
Another way is introducing new progression options. Even if the number of players remains the same with the core dedicated audience, there are ways to have them spend more money and, therefore, make the Switch title more successful.
That is by releasing a progression system similar to that of Fortnite and other online games on Switch. There could be seasonal passes that players can purchase with skins and other rewards offered through it. As the player levels up the pass, they will receive currency and incentives to keep playing.
Even if many players show up only for a few weeks during the season pass, if done right, it can hook them back in with the start of a new season and rewards. It’s through this that countless other games have found their success, and it can be the same here.
But there is one method of making Arena of Valor Switch a success that is more important than any other, and that’s cross-play with the mobile version. Extending the two communities to one another would bolster both of their online functionalities and ensure that there are always people to play with.
In addition, adding cross-progression would encourage mobile users to move their accounts over to the Switch version and see how it plays. This works wonders for Smite on Switch since you can play with all platforms but PS4, so there is always a match waiting to join.
But in order to do this, Tencent has to commit to the previous methods first. While it can be tough since decisions like these will affect employees and the company as a whole, it’s more than worth it for the possibilities that Arena of Valor Switch offers for both Tencent and its fans. Here’s hoping that this happens.