Bytedance’s Publishing and Platform Ambitions

It seems like we can’t get through a month without talking about Bytedance’s growing gaming operations. As reported by South China Morning Post, Bytedance launched a mobile-only game store, Danjuan Games, back in October, and this month it announced Pixmain, an indie game publisher that does global publishing on all platforms.

Danjuan, which means “egg roll” in Chinese, is a mobile-based game app store that’s focused on casual titles (for now). In China’s Android ecosystem, 3rd-party app stores such as Tencent’s Myapp are standard fare alongside the phone manufacturer’s own app stores. Oppo, Huawei, Vivo, and Xiaomi all have their own app stores with millions of users, and they also have a lock on app distribution, taking up to 50% of gross revenue in some cases. Danjuan enters the mix here and probably will most resemble Taptap, another upstart. Taptap made a name for itself amid a crowded marketplace a few years ago by focusing on player community building within the app store. Expect Danjuan to follow this formula.

As for the Pixmain announcement, it sounds like Bytedance just added the standard indie arrow to its quiver of publishing offerings. That said, Pixmain is actually an anomaly for Bytedance. As of today, Bytedance has accumulated assets in hypercasual publishing (Ohayoo), midcore game development/publishing (multiple studios in China), instant games (Unity Partnership), and now a game app store (Danjuan) plus indie publishing (Pixmain). All of the moves so far have been mobile-centric (leveraging Bytedance’s existing audiences) — except for Pixmain, which is actively looking for cross-platform games.

This is where we get speculative. Adding a mobile app store plus cross-platform capabilities may suggest that Bytedance is actually thinking bigger. Perhaps Bytedance is not only aiming to be the next Tencent or Netease in terms of making and publishing high quality games. Maybe Bytedance is building a cross-platform cloud gaming platform that’s also racing against Apple, Epic, Sony, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Nvidia for a more important place in the ever-evolving metaverse. And why not? Bytedance has an enormous active user base under 25, and they have a history of building wildly successful platforms (Toutiao, Tiktok). Plus, if you consider the fact that China has the talent for improving networks (5G) and gaming, it might not seem too far fetch an idea after all. Time will tell.