Nuverse, which is part of ByteDance’s gaming companies roster, has acquired Shanghai-based developer and publisher Moonton Technology. They are the owner of the popular mobile gaming app Mobile Legends. The purchase puts on an esports collision course with Tencent as it seeks to be an equal in the gaming industry.
ByteDance is best known for it’s popular app TikTok. According to Reuters, the acquisition valued Moonton at $4 billion. Others estimates the value of the deal to be close to $5 billion. In internal communications, CEO Yuan Jing clarified the studio would continue to operate independently.
In a statement to Reuters, ByteDance said: “Through cross-team collaboration and drawing on lessons and insights from its own rapid growth, Moonton provides the strategic support needed to accelerate Nuverse’s global gaming offerings.”
Moonton Technology was created in 2014 is best known for iOS and Android MOBA Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, released in 2016 surpassed 1 billion downloads in November, according to the company.
In 2017, the title was the target of a lawsuit from Riot Games, which claimed it was a League of Legends clone. Riot won the lawsuit in 2018, with its parent company Tencent being awarded $2.89 million.
The acquisition of Moonton is a pointed addition in ByteDance’s fight against Tencent. Moonton was created by former Tencent employee Xu Zhenhua, who was forced to pay Tencent 19.4 million yuan (US$3 million) in 2018 as compensation for breaking a non-compete clause in his contract with his former employer.
Tencent’s fight with Moonton continues in a separate lawsuit in Shenzhen, which alleges Mobile Legends violated its intellectual property from hit titles Honour of Kings and League of Legends. The case opened in September 2018, and Moonton later attacked the judge in an open letter, accusing him of being influenced by Tencent. No ruling has yet been made.
The dispute between Moonton and Tencent has remained one of the most eye-catching lawsuits in China’s gaming industry. The ByteDance acquisition extends a lifeline to Moonton, and the company is likely shelling out billions of dollars for the privilege.
ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, has made several forays into games. Last November, it launched Pixmain, its publishing arm, and Danjuan Games — a casual gaming platform. That’s on top of having previously acquired game studios Ohayoo, Nuverse and PixDance.