“I really misjudged Tencent before”

“I really misjudged Tencent before”

Tencent also has its own destiny.

Text/Gray Homing Pigeon


In the eyes of many people, scolding Tencent seems to be the right thing to do.

Rather, criticizing Tencent is a form of “political correctness.” Whether it’s a product or a company, Tencent can always attract a group of people to come and criticize it in different ways: in 2007, it was accused of “plagiarism”, and in 2018, it was accused of not being enterprising and “having no dreams.” More than ten or twenty years have passed, and the tricks have changed, but the core has remained the same.

After breaking out of the times, Tencent has such a deep emotional imprint that it has become a symbol. On the contrary, many people have forgotten Tencent’s contemporary nature. In the general context, no matter how big it is, Tencent is still the one that has emerged from the past era. The “grassroots” who come out will still be trapped in the war of the times.

I got a book two days ago called “Tencent: The Rise of a Technology Empire.” I originally read it as a “secret history of the imperial court” to see what other interesting things Tencent has done in the gaming field. After flipping through it, I found that there was no secret history in the book, but I liked the perspective.

The author of this book is Chen Yilun, a reporter from Bloomberg in the United States. She used to study finance, but later plunged into technology, and has almost completely witnessed the rise of China’s technology. Chen pays close attention to Tencent. She has interviewed Ma Huateng, talked to a number of senior executives, and dealt with companies that are inextricably linked to Tencent.

Chen has a unique perspective and is able to put aside those emotions. She is not writing analysis for Tencent, but more like recording and reporting. Chen sorted out two maps from Tencent, writing time vertically and ecology horizontally. Many times, this book discusses the companies Tencent has chosen to mirror Tencent.

Also, after all, Bloomberg is not a vertical media and will not dig out too many details. Instead, it will provide a more macro perspective. For game practitioners, if they want to observe Tencent games and even capture the trends of domestic games, they may need It is this kind of macro-level profiling.


This book mentions the source of many of Tencent’s decisions – such as imitation.

Tencent mentioned a ridiculed concept before, saying that it is “gameplay driven”. There is a misunderstanding here. “Gameplay-driven” is interpreted as innovation, but in fact it is Tencent’s answer to “content-driven”. The essence is a series of questions from product managers:

What’s your play style? Who is the audience? How big is the market? How to break out?

Tencent is good at fighting breakouts. When a field shows signs of becoming bigger, they will rely on resources and traffic to roll up their sleeves and compete head-on with their opponents. This is also Tencent’s Up-Bottom idea. We must first see if there are any opportunities in the market before making a big move. But entering the market late also means being accused of imitation and plagiarism.

Many people believe that imitation is engraved in Tencent’s bones: they imitated ICQ and made OICQ; they followed Yahoo and made QQ News; they made “QQ Hall” based on “Bubble Hall”. Ma Huateng said this in an exclusive interview: “

What Tencent has done has been done by others, and we can do it better again. “

This is true to the times. At the time of Ma Huateng, private entrepreneurs were in such an environment: there were blooming flowers abroad but nothing at home. They learn to imitate, find what the general public needs most, and then bring these things into the country. If you don’t hurry up, overseas forces will crowd in.

Another background for imitation comes from the competition of the times. Starting from a dim room in Huaqiangbei, Tencent has been fighting for more than 20 years. At first, they bargained with operators, fought with Microsoft, and pulled hair from Zhou Hongbao; later, they hid behind Meituan and Didi to fight with Alibaba and the United States. Some battles can burn through $1 billion a year.

Therefore, Tencent’s product challenge will also be passed on to its employees, who need to produce specific outputs to prove their value. So we can see that Tencent uses the method of shark uterus to fight internally; it uses the method of decentralization to let employees track competition and obtain product concepts…

——The book makes it clear that imitation is one of Tencent’s tactics to survive the ten years of Internet chaos. It has traces of the times.


Also, let’s talk about one more decision.

The pop-up windows and red dots that fill the screen of Tencent games are also one of the designs that have been criticized. I don’t like it myself either. Even in the cleanest IP products, I’m tired of endless pop-ups every time I play the game. There is no way, they are afraid that players will get lost, and they want to pile everything that needs interaction on the surface.

In an interview with LatePost, Tencent Chief Operating Officer Ren Yuxin mentioned that Tencent’s core culture is “user-driven” rather than “competition-driven.” To put it mildly, Tencent’s products are too close to users. It still hopes that everyone will like it, and most of them are trying to please.

This user-facing habit has been around for a long time. In 2004, Microsoft MSN was preparing to attack the Chinese market. It had the resources of major international companies, a more advanced aesthetic, and a stronger team and technology. In contrast, Tencent’s strongest weapon is its understanding of users in the domestic market and its rapid iterations.

In fact, looking through the entire article, Tencent had some new ideas and tried to make changes when many projects started. But they couldn’t accept mediocre results, so after that, when facing the market, they usually made drastic adjustments and even sought external help to solve the problem, all in the end in order to win over the majority of users.

——In the early days of the Internet melee, Tencent was also poor. Youwei was hungry for traffic and was too afraid that users would not like it.

An old employee who joined Tencent in the early days once told me that in his first few years at Tencent, he learned two things. One is to use product manager design ideas to challenge project ideas, and the other is user-oriented iteration, “What Small steps and fast running, old trees and new flowers are all things that came out at that time.”

To this day, rapid response and continuous promotion of micro-innovation and upgrades are still a major feature of Tencent: in 2010, Zhang Xiaolong added voice input for smartphones to WeChat, leapfrogging QQ; in 2015, Yao Xiaoguang added “Hero” to WeChat. “Traces of War” was renamed “Honor of Kings” and the design logic was greatly changed for users.

This idea that when entering a field, you have to eat all the users, is actually one of the reasons why he later made large-scale investments: If I don’t understand a field well enough, then I will invest in people who understand this field and let them go. Do it, and then I’ll do the user connection.

Therefore, the first half of “Tencent: The Rise of a Technology Empire” focuses on Tencent, while the second half focuses more on those companies that choose to cooperate with Tencent. After all, the branches extending outward also represent the desire of the trunk.


This book doesn’t say much about game modules, but I think it explains very well what kind of games Tencent is making.

For a long time, everyone likes to question Tencent about why China doesn’t produce 3A games: You obviously have the most resources, why don’t you catch up with the world’s top players? In my opinion, this is confusing the concept of Game – they all call it “game”, but the essence is very different.

Tencent Games grew out of QQ WeChat and came from a platform’s request to build its entertainment module. Tencent Games is not looking for quality and gameplay. It is born to serve the F2P business model and was born from the product standards of major Internet companies.

In 2019, Tencent executives held a meeting and asked the internal team whether they could produce a AAA game within 3-5 years. The conclusion at that time was that everyone felt that the technology was achieved, but they still would not do AAA specifically for consoles. Even if they did, it would be a single-game game driven by gameplay and oriented to multiple people.

So, you say the games made by Tencent are not games? That’s definitely not right. So many people are playing “Honor of Kings” with their mobile phones in their hands, and they have already voted with their feet. But do you think Tencent will become a 3A company if it continues to develop? That’s not right, because the starting point of Chinese games is different. It can only be infinitely close to overseas countries, but it cannot become the other side.

——To put it bluntly, the dreams that Tencent does not have are just our own misjudged expectations for the industry. Tencent’s dream has not changed for more than 20 years: facing users and making connections.

From the past era, Tencent and many surviving Chinese companies have been deeply influenced by the business model of focusing on the market. It is also because of this that they move towards the game business. Even though many practitioners with game dreams have joined, the general direction is still determined by the times and environment.

Nowadays, the environment has changed, and Tencent, which has been on the battlefield for a long time, is also in a dilemma, and it has been reducing costs and increasing efficiency for a long time. That behemoth in everyone’s eyes, facing the times again, still has an inescapable fate.


“Tencent: The Rise of a Tech Empire” is not difficult to read. The structure of the event is simple, and it is probably inseparable from this pattern: an era comes → Tencent seizes the opportunity → faces challenges and opponents → how Tencent ends up using people. So back and forth.

Therefore, the author has a glimpse of Tencent’s management, one is the characters, and the other is the era. In fact, this book does not delve too deeply into the details of the past. Most of it just records the nodes and sorts out the more than 20 years of Tencent’s rise and its ecosystem that has been uprooted piece by piece. Probably a lot of it is known to many people.

I heard a saying before that some people feel that all the content reported by reporters is not truly true. No matter how they verify or record, all they seek is conjecture in their own minds and whitewashing by others. He said it cruelly, feeling that these records were just “fan fiction” of major companies and characters.

At first I wanted to refute it, but if I think about it carefully, this kind of multi-party verification and then connecting the content from the reporter’s own perspective is actually a tool for interpreting a company or the times. No one can tell the whole story, not even those who have experienced it. Because of this, we need more such perspectives to review the past and examine the present.

Perhaps, this is also the greatest value of “Tencent: The Rise of a Technology Empire” to many people.

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