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Tencent Eyes Entertainment Expansion with “Neo-Culture Creativity” Strategy

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Tencent, one of the the world’s largest internet and technology companies, has announced some major new moves in the entertainment sector. Last week, the company revealed link-ups with James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger on a new Terminator film, unveiled plans for a raft of new experimental games (including a cancer treatment simulation game), and launched a new online music talent contest.

With $36.387 billion USD in revenue last year, Tencent is famous for its valuable gaming platform and for its social media juggernaut, WeChat. It’s been seven years since the internet giant launched its “Pan Entertainment Strategy,” by which it aims to link “creative content across a variety of platforms to engage viewers and content creators at unprecedented levels,” according to an official press release.

On April 22, the company’s “Neo-Culture Creativity Eco-Conference” (entitled UP2018) in Beijing, provided something of an update on how that strategy is coming along so far — and where it’s going next.

Organized around the theme “With Love We Create,” the conference gathered together a host of big names from across the arts and creative industries, including Tim Yip, an art director and film designer who picked up an Academy Award for his work on Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; Vincent Fang, a lyricist and poet best known for his work with Jay Chou; Greg Street, Design Director of ultra-popular multiple online battle arena game League of Legends; Brendan Greene, lead designer and director of another popular internet game on the platform, Player Unknown Battlegrounds; and Michael E. Uslan, a producer of both Burton- and Nolan-era Batman films.

In addition to this packed panel of industry heavyweights, the Tencent Interactive Entertainment group — a division of the company focusing on the production and distribution of film, comics, animations, online literature, e-sports, and games — took the opportunity to introduce its latest products and announce its upcoming strategies.

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Edward Cheng, Vice President of Tencent and CEO of Tencent Pictures, said at the conference (link in Chinese) that the division’s strategy will be upgraded with “a new concept called ‘Neo-Culture Creativity.’” Over the past six years, generating original intellectual property has become a common-sense practice, Cheng said, and the entire ecosystem around content production and collaboration has changed greatly. The new strategy has two core points, Cheng said: to “systematically focus on the cultural value of generating of intellectual property,” and to “upgrade the method of creating intellectual property.”

Cheng also announced that Tencent Pictures will release 15 films and dramas in 2018, including an adaptation of Ma Boyong’s archaeological fiction Mystery of Antiques. Tencent Film Distribution scored a recent victory in its co-promotion of Steven Spielberg’s box office hit Ready Player One, which earned 1.3 billion RMB (about $200 million USD) in China.

The Tencent subsidiary will also strategically collaborate with American film production Skydance Media — the two companies will both take a part in a new Terminator film produced by franchise creator James Cameron and starring its original lead, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

On the gaming front, it seems Tencent Games will not be resting on its laurels having created the world’s top grossing mobile game, Honor of Kings, which currently has an incredible 160 million monthly active users.

At UP2018, the company announced four new experiential games: Epistory – Typing Chronicles, a typing video game; Kerbal Space Program, a highly customizable space flight simulation game; Tumor Doctors, a cancer treatment simulation game; and Nishan Shaman, a shaman-themed game. Nishan Shaman is still in development, and will officially launch soon, according to a press release. “Each of these games brings players closer to cultural or social themes, and enriches their knowledge as they play,” Tencent said in the press release.

Tencent Games and Tencent Comics & Animations have also launched a collaboration with leading cultural institutions, including the National Library of China and the Dunhuang Research Academy, with the goal of incorporating more traditional Chinese culture into their original content.

As for music, Tencent Musician, yet another sub-group, launched a new contest called The Force Music Plan on April 17. Contestants submit their original compositions by May 17, in the process getting their music authorized by streaming services QQ Music, Kugou Music, and Kuwo music player. After users and professional judges vote, 20 finalists will be sponsored to record albums.

The winners will also be sent on tour, receiving advice and support from three professional coaches: singer Sitar Tan, singer/songwriter Tiger Hu, and LA-based record producer Justin Gray. After a final vote, the ultimate champion will get the chance to record a single produced by Gray, who has worked with Mariah Carey, John Legend, and Amy Winehouse.

Check out the trailer for the contest, which is rather playfully put together, and gives a fun look at Beijing’s characteristic hutong vibe:

Cover photo: Edward Cheng at UP2018

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Fan Shuhong
    Shuhong (aka Rita) is a language instructor, English/Chinese translator, writer, and proud bunny owner based in Beijing. She's previously worked in Washington D.C. and IUP at Tsinghua University. She loves Chinese language, Japanese arts, post-rock music and good English TV series. Instagram: rita_van

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