Tencent already has a piece of game developers Riot, Grinding Gear, and Epic, and probably also your local coffee shop, and now it’s got a chunk of another. Another game developer, that is. I don’t know how many coffee shops it’s invested in.
As revealed in a press release today, Tencent has “entered into a share purchase agreement to acquire 29% of the shares in Funcom.” The shares come from Norway-based KGJ Capital AS, which used to be the largest shareholder in Funcom, a distinction that now applies to Tencent.
So what does all this mean for Secret World Legends, Age of Conan, and the non-F2P games in Funcom’s library, like Conan Exiles and the upcoming Dune games? I know, I know, Tencent ruins everything, just like it has for League of Legends and Path of Exile. Those games are terrible, right?
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: When big gaming company buys a piece — and not even a controlling piece — of little gaming company, the results are usually indistinguishable from if the little company had never been purchased. A lot of fuss was made over when Columbus Nova bought Sony Online Entertainment (which is what actually happened, despite what some people would tell you), but SOE/Daybreak was headed in a bad direction even before the purchase and its performance since then has not been difficult to predict. Columbus Nova or Jason Epstein or whoever had nothing to do with that.
You also might point to Epic Games, which is partially owned by Tencent and has gotten a significant amount of flak for the way the Epic Games Store has operated, with its exclusive deals and being generally lacking in features. But imagine a world in which Epic was a) totally independent; and b) swimming in money from Fortnite: Battle Royale. Do you think it needed a push from Tencent to take the route it’s taking now? I doubt it.
So Funcom will probably keep on keeping on the way it has for the past few years, once it turned the corner with Conan Exiles’ success. If an underperforming game — say, Secret World Legends — shuts down, it won’t be any more surprising than if it had three months ago. Funcom is in the business of making money. So is Tencent. In most ways, very little has changed.