Chinese gaming giant Tencent Holdings has hired Kojima Productions founding member Ken-Ichiro Imaizumi and Halo 4 lead designer Scott Warner, both industry veterans, as part of its efforts to produce block buster games and court hard core gamers in the West. Confirming the new hires to the Post, a spokeswoman for Tencent said that Imaizumi will join as production director of Tencent Games, while Warner will head the company’s marquee gaming studio TiMi Studios in North America, which is behind games such as Call of Duty Mobile and Honour of Kings.
The high-profile hires come as Tencent, the largest gaming company in the world by revenue, seeks to expand its audiences abroad amid slowing growth in its home market and regulatory pressure from Chinese authorities, which have in the past withheld approvals for new games.
Vincent Gao, international business director of TiMi Studios, said last month that the studio wanted to hire an American chief and set up an international base to drive a broader effort to craft games for audiences beyond China. “Our goal in North America is to hire an experienced leader who will build a world-class team to create new games for any platform,” Gao said.
According to a job ad posted on the company’s official WeChat account last week, Tencent America is looking to fill 13 game-related positions in California. Five of the positions specifically require experience working on AAA games and most require at least five to 10 years of experience.
Imaizumi, known for his work on Kojima Productions’ Metal Gear Solid and Death Stranding, left the company he helped to build last year after almost 20 years, according to industry news site VGC.
Warner, previously a game director at Ubisoft, posted about the move on Twitter last Saturday and said he is looking to hire “for all disciplines at all levels” for the new AAA operation.
While Tencent is known for popular mobile titles, such as Honour of Kings, which have met tremendous success in Asia, the Chinese gaming giant has been struggling to break into the AAA, or Triple-A, category of blockbuster games.
Triple-A games, an informal classification which includes series such as Final Fantasy and Call of Duty, refers to big-budget, premium games that have top-of-the-line graphics and more than 10 hours of play time. These games typically appear on more powerful platforms such as consoles or PCs.
Late last year, as Tencent heavily rebranded its gaming business with an English slogan, Tencent executive Steve Ma said the company hopes half of its users and revenue will come from outside China in the near future.
As it stands, Tencent still has a long way to go to reach that goal – its international titles only accounted for about 23 per cent of its total online games revenue in the final quarter of last year, according to the latest data it has disclosed.