Interpret Weekly #2

Universal PicturesCKF PICTURES / Alibaba PicturesEmperor Motion Pictures

The debut marks the 2nd biggest opening for Universal and the franchise ever in China as well as the first Hollywood tentpole since Avengers: Endgame to post a $100 million+ opening in the Middle Kingdom. F9 launched Friday with $59.1M (including midnight showings), the 2nd biggest opening day of the pandemic behind Detective Chinatown 3. Yet, the film’s social and critical scores don’t look bright with 5.6/10 on Douban and 7.9/10 on Maoyan – both the lowest among the franchise, with criticism focusing on the lack of scientific support for some actions or scenes in the film and weak storytelling.  

F9 earned $5.53 million over the weekend and $9.83 million over its opening five days. Its five-day-total means F9 has already overtaken Minari to become the third biggest film of the year at the Korean box office.

Tencent said Thursday that revenue jumped 25% to $21 billion for Q2 2021 compared to the same period last year. $6.8 billion came from the video game business which enjoyed a 17% boost thanks to the strong performance of evergreen hits Honor of Kings, PUBG Mobile, and new release Moonlight Blade Mobile. Profit soared 65% to $7.4 billion, helped by lower interest rates and growth in the gaming business. The company also announced Thursday that it would step up its investments in “new opportunities,” such as game development and short-form video content.

Chinese video game giant NetEase reported net revenues of $3.1 billion in Q1 2021, an increase of 20.2% compared with the first quarter of 2020. Gross profit was $1.7 billion, 17.9% higher than Q1 2020. The steady growth is credited to strong performances from longstanding flagship titles including Fantasy Westward Journey, Life-After, Invincible, and Onmyoji. The company also emphasizes a strong game pipeline including Harry Potter: Magic Awakened, The Lord of the Rings: Rise to War, Nightmare Breaker, Diablo Immortal, and Ghost World Chronicle.

Tencent introduced more than 60 new titles at its annual video gaming conference on May 16th, with 41 scheduled to release. Highlights include:

  • Roblox online gaming platform;
  • Big-budget tactical shooter PC game SYNCED: Off-Planet;
  • ARPG Dynasty Warriors: Dominate, the mobile edition of the classic Dynasty Warriors franchise;
  • Meta Slug: Awakening, the mobile version of Meta Slug authorized by SNK;
  • Harvest Moon, the mobile version of the farm simulation role-playing game;
  • Project: Fighter, the fighting game under the IP of One Piece;
  • One Punch Man Just Is Served, an RPG mobile game leveraging the One Punch Man IP;
  • Digimon: New Century, a card battle mobile game working with Bandai Namco;
  • Uncharted Waters: Lord of the Sea, the mobile game based on Uncharted Waters IV, authorized and produced by Koei Tecmo;
  • The mobile version of Nobunaga’s Ambition working with Koei Tecmo

Beijing Municipality announced “Esports Beijing 2021” last Thursday, highlighting a series of esports events to be held in the capital of China in 2021. The biggest event would be Honor of Kings World Champion Cup (KCC) with a prize pool of up to $7.8 million, which will be hosted at the National Olympic Sports Center on Aug. 28. Other events include Tencent’s Call of Duty Masters Season 2 Finals, Perfect World and Valve’s top Chinese Dota 2 and CS: GO competition Perfect World League (PWL), ESL’s Intel Extreme Masters (IEM), Funspark’s console esports competition Spark Championships, and VR Esports International Championship.

Pearly Abyss has acquired Lost Kingdom developer Factorial Games. It bought a 100% stake in Factorial Games for $17.7 million from its parent Four Thirty Three. Factorial Games is set to roll out its new mobile RPG Super String and is working with Square Enix on new title Project J.

Netmarble’s U.S. subsidiary Jam City is set to become public through a merger with a special purpose acquisition company publicly trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Jam City has signed a merger agreement with DPCM Capital Inc., a publicly traded SPAC. The merger deal, expected to close at the end of the year, will value the combined company at $1.2 billion.

According to a latest survey conducted by the health ministry, 74.8% of children born in 2010 play video games or mobile games on school days, up from 65.2% in a similar survey conducted on children born in 2001. Of the fourth graders, 38.7% said they play games for 1-2 hours on school days and 9.8% for 2-3 hours.

Sony Music Entertainment (SME) said Monday that it has signed both a new direct China digital distribution deal with NetEase Cloud Music and a multi-year extension of its existing agreement with Tencent Music Entertainment (TME). The deal could shift power away from TME in China’s streaming industry and make the space slightly more competitive and fairer.

The deal comes amidst a government antitrust probe of TME and its parent company Tencent Group. For years, TME elbowed out competitors with exclusive digital distribution contracts with the three major labels, Universal, Warner, and Sony. It would then sub-license those catalogues out to competitors like NetEase — often for double or triple the original price.

Construction has officially started on the Harry Potter attraction planned for the site of the now closed Toshimaen amusement park in Western Tokyo. The opening of the 30,000 square meter park, called the Warner Bros. Studio Tour Tokyo – The Making of Harry Potter, is set for the first half of 2023.

In a regulatory filing, the company said that revenues in the Q1 2021 had grown 4% to $1.2 billion and that net losses had been more than halved, falling to $193 million this time around. However, subscriptions and membership revenue were both down in the first quarter of last year – membership revenues were 7% lower at $658 million, while the subscription figure was more than 13 million down from the end of March 2020, when subscriptions peaked at 118.9 million.