While Alibaba Group Holding is already the largest e-commerce company in the Middle Kingdom, that does not mean that the company is comfortable resting on its laurels. For the first time, Alibaba has decided to make a foray into the world of mobile gaming through both its Mobile Taobao shopping application and its Laiwang smartphone messaging app. With more and more people accessing Alibaba through mobile connections rather than from a desktop Mac or PC, the Chinese giant is apparently keen on keeping these people occupied in other ways.
Three games, two platforms
Three games have been released so far and they will allow players to win points, then trade those points for discounts on Alibaba’s shopping site. Not surprisingly, point allowances will be based on game performance. For the time being, Mobile Taobao is offering a single game while two are available on Laiwang. Alibaba announced that more games will be joining the lineup on both platforms in the near future.
There are hundreds of millions of smartphone users in China and Alibaba knows that while it is a giant, it needs to offer more as more and more people become smartphone users, as it wishes to ramp up engagement with this group.
Presently, Alibaba’s biggest rival in the mobile arena is Tencent Holdings Ltd (HKG:0700) (OTCMKTS:TCEHY). Tencent is best known for its chat app WeChat that is a monster in mobile messaging in China. WeChat enjoys over 270 million monthly users and Tencent also offers mobile games. That 270 million users is head and shoulders above the next most popular messaging app in China.
This is not the first time that Alibaba has looked to mobile based applications. Last year, the company made a sizable investment in SINA Corp (NASDAQ:SINA). Sina essentially has the microblogging market cornered with an app similar to Twitter called Weibo where Alibaba has already integrated Taobao’s product listings into the microblog app.
Presently, Alibaba’s primary footprint in mobile-based services has been provided by its mobile Taobao shopping site which sells over 800 million items provided by over 7 million separate merchants. While Laiwang (messaging) has gained ground against WeChat, it is barely a rival of the preferred messaging app.