Mobile Gaming Production Networks, Platform Business Groups, and the Market Power of China’s Tencent

Neil M. Coe, Chun Yang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The games industry is one of many that have undergone significant restructuring due to the emergence of digital platforms. Since the early 2010s, the industry has shifted rapidly to focus on mobile games as opposed to console and personal computer games. Mobile platforms, particularly application (app) stores that serve as digital distribution platforms for mobile content such as games, have become central to the organization of the industry. Although the existing literature on mobile platforms has tended to focus on the dominant distribution platforms such as Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store that prevail in the United States and European countries, the shift to mobile gaming is arguably being led by the Chinese market, where domestic third-party app stores predominate. China is also home to the world’s largest gaming company, Tencent. This article explores the evolving nature of games industry production networks, with a specific focus on the Chinese market and Tencent’s rise to a dominant position in particular. Conceptually, the article combines insights from the platform ecosystem and global production network literatures to demonstrate how Tencent has used strategies of vertical and horizontal integration to create a specific organizational form—the platform business group. This bestows competitive advantages to Tencent that in turn underpin its market power, high levels of value capture, and the wider trend toward duopoly or oligopoly in the sector. The conceptual framing also explains how these developments are heavily shaped by the distinctive regulatory and market characteristics of the Chinese games industry.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)307-330
Number of pages24
JournalAnnals of the American Association of Geographers
Volume112
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 7 Feb 2022

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes

User-Defined Keywords

  • China
  • games industry
  • mobile gaming
  • platform business groups
  • production networks
  • Tencent

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