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Mihoyo's new video game tops download charts as big launches return to China

By Josh Ye

HONG KONG (Reuters) - A new game released by "Genshin Impact" developer miHoYo this week has become China's top downloaded app, reflecting pent-up demand as gaming giants restart flagship launches with a crackdown on the industry easing.

The blockbuster debut bodes well for several other games due to launch this summer in the world's largest video games market.

As of Thursday, the Shanghai-based company's strategy game "Honkai: Star Rail", where anime characters battle space monsters, had amassed 20 million downloads across smartphones and personal computers, miHoYo said.

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The game scored more than 1.6 million downloads on smartphones in China within five hours after it was published on Wednesday, according to data firm App Magic, and had garnered 5.8 million downloads on smartphones worldwide.

It has also become the most downloaded game on Apple's devices across 21 different markets including the U.S. and Japan, according to another data firm SensorTower.

"It's already broken records by reaching no. 1 on the iOS game download chart in more countries than any prior game," Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad said on Twitter.

"Honkai: Star Rail" received its publishing license from Beijing in January, after authorities ended a suspension on game approvals, imposed in 2021 after the sector was accused of fueling gaming addiction among the country's youth.

Regulators resumed handing out game approvals in April 2022, including for flagship titles from industry giants Tencent Holdings and NetEase which are now gearing up for big summer launches.

"2023 is set to be a strong growth year for Chinese gaming companies, especially those that have obtained licenses for blockbuster titles," said Ivan Su, analyst at Morningstar.

Tencent, the world's largest gaming company that was a major target of the crackdown, in February released a new shooting game called "Undawn" that featured U.S. movie star Will Smith as its ambassador. The game has raked in more than $20 million since launch.

It is scheduled to test action game "Valorant" in May ahead of its official release this year. Tencent will invest in launching an esports league in China for the game.

"Honkai: Star Rail" comes nearly three years after privately-owned miHoYo released its last flagship game "Genshin Impact", an action game that made more than $4 billion in revenue by 2022, according to SensorTower,making it one of the world's most profitable games.

(Reporting by Josh Ye; Editing by Brenda Goh and Sonali Paul)