Hit Game Genshin Impact Helps Chinese Studio Double Its Sales

The Chinese developer of Genshin Impact doubled revenue to almost $800 million last year, riding one of the biggest video game hits of the pandemic era.

Shanghai-based MiHoYo racked up more than 5 billion yuan ($774 million) in sales in 2020, thanks to the popularity of the action-adventure title that debuted September, the studio’s co-founder and president Cai Haoyu said in an online speech, according to a person familiar with the matter. Cai told fellow alumni from Shanghai Jiaotong University that MiHoYo increased its headcount by 70% to 2,400 people last year, the person said, asking not to be identified because the information isn’t public.

A company representative declined to comment on the figures, which were first reported by industry publication GameLook.

Genshin Impact is set in a fantasy world with dragons and magic, where players unlock anime-style characters and weapons via loot boxes they pay real money for. While it initially drew criticism for borrowing elements from Nintendo Co.’s Zelda saga for the Switch console, the game has largely been celebrated by fans and critics and was shortlisted in two categories for The Game Awards 2020.

Within its first two months, Genshin Impact generated nearly $400 million in global player spending on mobile, according to researcher Sensor Tower. The game -- also available for PC and consoles -- is one of the few examples of a Chinese-developed title taking off globally, benefiting from a boom in the industry as demand for at-home entertainment surged during Covid-19.

Started in 2011 by Cai and two classmates at Jiaotong University, MiHoYo has garnered a loyal following among anime and manga fans for previous mobile hits such as Honkai Impact 3rd. Revenue for 2018 was close to 2 billion yuan, the studio told local media at the time. Executives at gaming giants like Tencent Holdings Ltd. and NetEase Inc. have applauded MiHoYo as an up-and-coming competitor.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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