Company Game

How to become a legend: Lilith Games, the creator of AFK Arena

Tencent is the champion among mobile game companies in China, and netease is the second. But what even many Chinese don't know is that Lilith's game ranks third.

If you ask someone which is the most successful game company in China, everyone may tell you it’s Tencent.

After all, this giant, which accounts for more than 70% of the market share of the industry, is a stronger monster than the sum of all the other competitors.

But if you ask which is China’s most successful game company overseas, the answer will be much more complicated.

Not to mention this question for foreign players, even for the Chinese themselves, people will give very different answers. It could be NetEase, Tencent, or even some may tell you that it is FunPlus–yes, the title sponsor of LOL’s S9 World Championship team.

And there is such a company that you may find on that list:

The company may be too tiny to compare with Tencent, but it is a rival that Tencent dare not underestimate; it may be criticized as “pay to win”, yet it has a very strong ability to guide users to pay; its founder was unknown on Tencent, but created a new empire in the year after leaving there, creating a miracle in the Chinese gaming industry.

Its name is Lilith Games, the developer of Allstar Heroes and AFK Arena, a Chinese mobile game, and even a legend in the game world.

From marginal figures to legends

In fact, the starting point of Lilith Games is very low. If you compare it with a NBA team, then its founder is actually a bench player.

In May 2013, Wang Xinwen, who had worked for Tencent for three years but remained unknown, ran away with two other friends who also worked at Tencent, and then founded Lilith Games in Shanghai, the heart of China’s cultural industry.

This period is the eve of the rapid development of Chinese mobile games, it can be said that Lilith Games was born at the most correct time.

At that time, China’s mobile game industry was filled with a large number of highly homogeneous works. What standed out was a game called I’m MT– a card game which is based on the famous MMORPG World of Warcraft” Although rough and suspected of plagiarism, it set off a lot of fashion at that time, through which many people recalled their happiness in World of Warcraft.


If we rethink about it again at present, such a game with so many defects could be so popular is quite interesting. It can only be said that the immature market is always filled with possibilities.

In 2014, less than a year after its establishment, Lilith Games’ first game, Allstar Heroes, was released.

And then it made people witness a miracle.

Allstar Heroes officially launched on AppStore on February 25, 2014, and immediately entered the top 10 of the revenue list in early March and remain in the top five of the best-seller list in April. On May 21, it reached the top of the China App Store income list for the first time; on June 15, it reached the top again; in July, it remained at the top of the list for more than a week.

Some verifiable data from that time shows that the retention rate of Allstar Heroes was as high as 48%; DAU was over 1.5 million in the first week of launch; there were more than 6.5 million registered users in all channels, while daily paying players account for more than 30% of the daily active players; the monthly flow even reached more than 200 million yuan (about 30 million dollars).

Despite the number of players and top-up data are no longer outstanding under the current standard, the result was very shocking at that time, especially the percentage data of users could still be on the top-level even today.

Although to a certain extent, in those days, China’s mobile game market was not prosperous, and there were far less competitive works than at present, we cannot deny the achievements of Lilith Games: Allstar Heroes broke Tencent Games’ monopoly on the App Store bestseller list at that time, seized the throne of the old king, and established a new empire of its own.

In numerical terms, Lilith Games took half a year to increase the company’s market capitalization from zero to about $700m.

For the success of the company, at a business event a few years ago, Wang Xinwen said bluntly: “Frankly speaking, there is half the element of luck, and this luck is embodied in that we launch a game that the market needs at the right time.

Maybe everyone already feels that the cards of automatic combat are not new, so we launch a card game with operation, and the quality is good enough. “

After that, Lilith Games is still launching games at the rate of about one a year, but although these works are also very successful, they do not recreate the glory of Allstar Heroes.

Until AFK Arena and Rise of Kingdoms.

The SLG game Rise of Kingdoms was launched overseas in April 2018, and in September 2019, the game’s overseas revenue reached $54 million, breaking the Chinese SLG mobile game revenue record held by Clash of Kings for more than three years.

In April 2019, AFK Arena launched in the overseas market, immediately reached the 18th place in the overseas market revenue list of domestic mobile games in that month, and rose to the fourth place in June and August.

However, Lilith Games did not stop there.

In January 2020, the global revenue of Lilith Games reached 1 billion yuan (about US $150 million) with the arrival of AFK Arena in the Chinese market, making it the largest Chinese company in overseas revenue that month.

It is also worth mentioning that, Lilith Games was the only company besides Tencent that could have two games on the revenue list at the same time.

AFK Arena became No. 4 on the bestseller list when it was released on January 4, and has since rocketed to near the top.

According to Sensor Tower estimates, the total revenue from AFK Arena, including overseas and domestic, reached $88.3 million in January, totaling about 616 million yuan.


Before that, AFK Arena had a record revenue of $31.2 million in August 2019, making Lilith Games become the top three Chinese mobile game publishers that month.

Another SLG game Rise of Kingdoms also ranked 10th with a score of $63.1 million (about 440 million yuan) and broke its own previous record, which would continue to rise if considering the domestic third-party Android market, which was further difficult to count.

After January, Lilith Games again ranked first in AppAnnie’s overseas revenue chart of China Publishers in February, 2020.

Lilith Games has always been an excellent game company

There are many factors behind which make Lilith Games become one of the top three mobile games in China.

First of all, it is very sensitive to the market. As we all know, China’s game market is greatly affected by censorship. The distribution of games is not as easy as in overseas markets, and valuable time may be wasted in waiting to be released. Sometimes, the popularity of the game type may already be over when the game is finally allowed to be released.

So Lilith Games does the opposite. It first releases its games overseas on a large scale, and then slowly returning to the domestic market. Both Rise of Kingdoms and AFK Arena have chosee this method.

The advantage of this is that if the game is already successful overseas, there is no need for the company to rush back to the domestic market. After all, the money has been made; and if the game is not successful overseas, then there is also no need for the company to rush back to the domestic market, because it may not be able to make money even if it comes back. From this point of view, Lilith Games looks more like an overseas company, except that it is physically located on the Chinese mainland.

Secondly, the quality of Lilith Games’ game is not poor. Lilith Games’s works are generally not very exquisite, yet they are usually highly universal – it does not require you to have a specific aesthetic orientation, does not require you to have a specific cultural background, and the extremely low entry threshold ensures that players from any country can get started as soon as possible and experience the game content on an equal footing, which is precisely the characteristic that Nijigen mobile games do not have in China at present. After all, the vast majority of Nijigen mobile games can be appreciated only by China, Japan and South Korea players. For players in other regions, these games have too high aesthetic threshold, making it difficult for them to understand the content of the game.

At the same time, Lilith Games’ game is not a masterpiece, but on the whole it is fun enough. In the case of AFK Arena, it perfectly has all the elements that mobile games should have: easy to start, unreachable destination,any time and any place,and very proper timing for players to quit. All these are fundamentally attributed to the high level of design of the game as a whole, and the ability of the company in this area is often underestimated.

Lastly, Lilith Games really knows how to get players to pay. It may even be one of the mobile game companies that understand gacha best. It is undeniable that Lilith Games’ work has a strong Pay-To-Win element, including almost all the systems that Chinese players hate most: all kinds of gift packages, VIP systems, endless gacha systems, and long-cycle character training without paying. None of them is welcomed.

But I have to say that the feedback from top-up of Lilith Games’ game is too strong.

Unlike the current situation where many mobile games can`t affort happiness even you pay for it, Lilith Games’ game giave you the most direct pleasure, just like an ice cola on a hot summer day: You pay, you win, always.

Are you stuck by the enemy? $99.99 allows you to pass 10 level immediately. Character training has entered a bottleneck period?  $99.99 will solve the problem. Or even dissatisfied with the contents of the official gift bag? It doesn’t matter. You are allowed to choose what the gift bag has by yourselve in the game. Even tired of gacha? Just directly buy the characters you want.

Lilith Games has customized an endless stream of consumer traps for players in all directions, and there is always one you want. That’s why players make such a joke: for Lilith Games, you can only say you don’t pay, but you can’t say you don’t want to.

At least as a player who has played a lot of mobile games, I have never seen these means, and I really can’t resist such temptation.

Remember that Lilith Games has always been a strong gaming company, and its success has never been accidental. It may not be able to compare with other game makers in terms of absolute technical capabilities, but the company knows a lot about players and gacha games. At the same time, it is also very good at making the right business decisions.

Let’s look forward to Lilith Games bringing more and better works to players in the future.

Reference

[1] 宅经济:中国出海企业莉莉丝游戏再度登顶收入榜单

[2] 1月全球榜:莉莉丝月流水超10亿,《剑与远征》成大赢家

[3] 又一款成都造手游”称帝”,莉莉丝《万国觉醒》破出海SLG收入记录!

[4] 《剑与远征》2019年海外最火放置卡牌新游荣耀归国

[5] 《刀塔传奇》财富神话:莉莉丝半年身价涨至50亿

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