Li_DanLi_Dan ・ Jun. 11, 2024
ByteDance Names New Leader to Revive Game Business Following Mass Layoff
Zhang Yunfan, former COO of Perfect World, takes the helm of Nuverse and ByteDance's UGC division after he was appointed as head of Moonton in April.

TMTPost -- ByteDance Ltd. reshuffles management of games, resuming exploration in the business after layoffs and divestitures.

Credit:Nuverse

Credit:Nuverse

ByteDance named Zhang Yunfan head of its game division, directly reporting to Hua Wei, the human resources chief. Zhang, a veteran of gaming industry in China with nearly two decades of experience, used to serve as chief operating officer (COO) and president at Perfect World Co., the China publisher for Valve Corp.’s Dota 2 and Steam prior to joining in ByteDance.

Zhang now takes the helm of Nuverse, the unit publishes “Marvel Snap”, and ByteDance’s user-gerneated content (UGC) division after he was appointed as head of Shanghai Moonton Technology Co., in April, Chinese news media outlet LatePost reported. ByteDance has stopped selling Moonton, a studio it took over for US$4 billion in 2021, per the report. It cited people familiar with the matter the current annual revenue of ByteDance's game business is about RMB10 billion to RMB15 billion, which can be ranked as a leader among the Chinese game companies. It took just three weeks for Zhang to resume normal operation of game studios since he took over the studio on April 10 and started communications with teams including Nuverse, the people said.

Unlike ByteDance’s previous wide-range layout that spans investment, publishing, self-research, mid-end, and community products, Zhang clearly focus on the common sense and rules of the game industry to make good games, the report cited an insider of Nuverse. Nuverse disbanded a distribution team of hundreds of people and retained a core distribution team of less than 50 people within two weeks after Zhang took over the studio, the insider said.

The latest news marked end of ByteDance’s months-long scaling down. The TikTok parentdecided to retreat from gaming more than half a year ago after two ambitious years. Nuverse will significantly scale down its business, look for divestiture of existing titles with good performance while maintaining operation, and shut down all of unreleased titles except few innovative projects and related technology projects, ByteDance confirmed to TMTPost App late November.

Nuverse told TMTPost it does have restructure and business adjustments to focus more on some of new types of games and exploration of relevant technologies. The ByteDance subsidiary set up in 2021 said it will continue work well on operation games already launched to fully protect the rights and interests of players.

ByteDance CEO Liang Rubo and Yan Shou, head of Nuverse, have discussed the decision to scale back repeatedly for a long time, people close to ByteDance revealed to TMTPost. According to the people, Liang believes ByteDance should make efforts on and move resources to more basic, innovative and imaginative projects rather than gaming, as the company has been working for the “big and comprehensive" projects in the past year, leaving the projects without any focus and scattered resources.

ByteDance and Nuverse didn’t specify how many employees will be affected during the restructure. They didn’t respond to queries about future of Moonton and another gaming unit C4games. Prior to ByteDance’s confirmation, Bloomberg reported in November ByteDance plans to several lay off hundreds of staff in gaming and phase out Nuverse. The company was reported to wind down projects under development and consider sales of existing titles. It was also weighing sales of Moonton according to the report.

ByteDance later responded that it had made difficult decision to restructure its gaming business following a review. It added that it regularly reviews its businesses and make adjustments to center on long-term strategic growth areas.

Nuverse was in talks with Tencent about sales of many gaming assets, affecting project teams located in various cities including Shanghai and Shenzhen, LatePost learned from multiple sources in January. It was reported Nuverse wants to sell such games that it has spent hundreds of millions of dollars in development and is offering big discounts. "Crystal of Atland" and "Earth: Revival", two popular titles which have been published by Nuverse, are reported to be on sales through auctions, with valuations assessed by methods such as gross billing multipled by valuation multiples.

Two studios under ByteDance--a Shenzhen-based one working on an action game and a Hangzhou-based one working on an anime game merged into a new company called Saluosi Network Technology Co. Ltd., one of gaming companies that Tencent Holdings Ltd. invested in, National Business Daily, a national financial and economic daily newspaper in China, reported in March. Another Chinese news media outlet 36Kr reported the same month ByteDance had yet not finalized buyers for VI-GAME and MMC, two studios that developed anime-style role-playing game "Crystal of Atland" and  sci-fi survival game "Earth: Revival", respectively. These games are deemed as the most successful mobile games since ByteDance forayed into gaming.

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