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Kabam CEO sees Alibaba deal as a path to China's mobile market

Kabam CEO sees Alibaba deal as a path to China's mobile market

September 10, 2014 | By Alex Wawro

"As China becomes more modernized and competitive economically on a global basis, people are moving from the big questions of food and clothes and shelter to culture and entertainment."
- Kabam CEO Kevin Chou explains why his successful game company agreed to a partnership with Chinese firm Alibaba.

Back in July, free-to-play game giant Kabam (The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle Earth) cut a deal with Alibaba that saw the Chinese firm investing $120 million into Kabam in return for roughly a ten percent stake in the company.

Alibaba secured a spot on Kabam's board and the right to publish Kabam's games on its platforms in China. However, developers with an eye on China might appreciate knowing that Kabam isn't prevented from operating with other regional partners -- according to Chou, that's actually encouraged.

"Alibaba actually wants us to work with other partners," says Chou in a recent interview with the Wall Street Journal. Chou also pointed out that Kabam still hasn't been able to make much headway into China because of the sheer number of regional mobile and social game platforms to manage.

But Alibaba is an e-commerce giant in China, and Chou says that it feels compelled to get into the mobile game market in a big way in order to match competitors like Tencent. Alibaba has also created its own mobile payment system Alipay and its own chat app, Laiwang, which is also a game distribution platform -- much like Tencent's WeChat or other Asian chat apps such as Korea's KakaoTalk or Japan's Line.

As Kabam turns to focus on licensed games tied into movie franchises like The Hunger Games, Chou says Alibaba's suite of mobile services will afford the San Francisco-based company a straightforward path to the Chinese market.

"When we launch our Hollywood movie tie-in games through Alibaba, we can do it when those movies come out in China," says Chou. "People can buy tickets for the movies through Alibaba and also play the games."

The full interview with Chou sheds light on the contemporary issues surrounding China's mobile market, and can be read over on the Wall Street Journal's website.

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