Tencent says it will shut down Penguin Esports unit by June

tencent says
REUTERS/Jason Lee/File Photo

HONG KONG (Reuters) – Chinese social media and gaming giant Tencent will shut down its Penguin Esports unit by early-June, it said on Thursday, as it streamlines its businesses following a regulatory crackdown.

The company said on its official WeChat account that the decision to shut down the six-year-old platform, where hosts could live-stream themselves playing games in a model similar to Amazon’s Twitch, was made because of “changes to its business development strategy”. It did not elaborate.

Beijing last year blocked the company’s attempt to create a $10 billion videogame streaming behemoth through the merger of the market’s top two players Huya and DouYu on antitrust grounds. Huya said at the time it planned to merge Penguin Esports into the new entity.

A wide-ranging Chinese regulatory crackdown has targeted tech giants over the last year and a half, forcing them to revamp once common market practices and driving Tencent and peer Alibaba Group to draw up layoffs plans, Reuters has reported.

Alibaba could ultimately axe more than 15% of its total workforce, or about 39,000 staff, according to one source with knowledge of the company’s plans. Another source told Reuters that Tencent’s unit overseeing businesses such as video streaming and search will see a 10%-15% headcount cut this year.

Tencent said on Thursday that Penguin Esports had stopped taking new users or live-streaming hosts and had also blocked existing users from topping up their accounts with immediate effect. The app will be removed from all app stores and will stop operating by June 7, it added.

Other products Tencent has withdrawn in recent months include its e-commerce platform Xiao’e Pinpin in February.

It also stopped services for video games including Epic Games’ smash-hit Fortnite, which Tencent had planned to publish in mainland China.

(By Josh Ye; Reporting by Josh Ye; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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