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Internet titans bury the hatchet as Tencent allows Douyin to air Honour of Kings videos amid ByteDance retreat

January 15, 2024 - Honour of Kings, the blockbuster video game from market leader Tencent Holdings, will return to ByteDance’s short video app Douyin as the two internet giants bury the hatchet following the TikTok owner’s decision to exit the sector.


The Shenzhen-based social media and gaming giant and Beijing-based ByteDance have fought years of bidding wars over Chinese video game studios and court battles over copyright, but that has ceased with Tencent now seen as a potential buyer of ByteDance’s gaming operations.


Honour of Kings, the world’s most popular mobile game, will be officially streamed on Douyin’s live-streaming platform from January 21, according to an announcement by the title’s official account on social media platform Weibo.


Before the official return, live-streaming sessions featuring Chinese esports team XYG began on Douyin on Sunday, and another three-day session with Zhang Daxian, a popular Honour of Kings streamer with over 50 million followers on the video platform, is slated to start on Thursday.


The game’s return to the ByteDance platform comes five years after a court in Guangzhou, capital of southern Guangdong province, banned the streaming of Honour of Kings on Xigua Video, another video streaming site run by the Douyin operator, in 2019.


The collaboration between ByteDance’s popular Chinese video app and Tencent’s biggest title comes amid regulatory uncertainties for the industry and a weaker macro environment in China. Tencent’s eight-year-old Honour of Kings, however, continues to lead as the world’s highest-grossing mobile game in November, according to data from Sensor Tower.


TikTok owner ByteDance has also confirmed it is in talks with multiple potential buyers, including Tencent, for its video game operations.


The retreat by ByteDance from the mainstay of Tencent’s business is likely to bring the curtain down on a series of online spats between the two billionaire founders of the respective companies, which saw a freeze in business dealings and dozens of lawsuits between them.


The feud started in 2018 with the rapid rise of Douyin, the Chinese sister app of TikTok, when Tencent boss Pony Ma Huateng and ByteDance founder Zhang Yiming engaged in rare online bickering. Zhang accused Tencent of plagiarising Douyin and Ma fired back, calling the comment “slander”.


ByteDance later sued the Shenzhen-based tech giant for anticompetitive behaviour and Tencent responded with a defamation lawsuit. Tencent also announced that it would halt all existing partnerships with ByteDance and its affiliated companies.

More legal battles followed in the next few years, as ByteDance accused Tencent of blocking links to Douyin in its flagship WeChat app. Tencent sued ByteDance for copyright infringement by streaming video and gaming content without authorisation.


However, there has been a growing thaw in icy relations in recent years.


In 2023 Tencent and Douyin ended their copyright disputes by signing a cooperation agreement on content distribution. Under the deal, Tencent will authorise Douyin to distribute its video content and it clarified copyright rules for users to produce modifications and adaptations.


Users of Douyin, Xigua Video and Jinri Toutiao, all operated by ByteDance, will also be able to produce derivative works based on Tencent-owned videos.

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