Tencent and Alibaba Engage in Price War for Palworld

In 2024, the first blockbuster game ‘Palworld’ made its debut, not only sparking extensive discussions among players but also directly triggering a new round of price competition between Tencent Cloud and Alibaba Cloud.

The game called ‘Palworld’ was released on the gaming platform Steam for early access on January 19th. Within 8 hours of its release, it sold over one million copies, within 24 hours it sold over two million copies, and within 40 hours it sold over three million copies. It achieved an astonishingly high sales figure of seven million copies in just five days, with a peak online player count reaching 1.86 million people. This performance set the second-best record in Steam’s history, only surpassed by the phenomenally popular game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds in 2017.

The game developer, as a startup company, is struggling to cope with the influx of a large number of players. As a multiplayer online game, frequent server lag has become an important factor affecting player experience. This has also attracted the attention of Tencent Cloud and Alibaba Cloud, who have sensed great business opportunities.

Faced with a huge demand from players, Tencent Cloud and Alibaba Cloud have launched cloud server solutions specifically designed for game private servers in the first place. Tencent Cloud even provided an official tutorial for one-click installation, which has once again ignited the fierce competition in the cloud server market that experienced a price war last year.

How popular is the game ‘Palworld’?

Palworld is an adventure game developed by the relatively unknown Japanese company Pocketpair, which invested 1 billion yen (approximately $7 million) and took nearly 4 years to create. In the game, players can continuously collect and raise magical creatures, either to fight alongside them or to build a home together. The unique world-building, diverse gameplay mechanics, and vast open-world experience quickly captured the favor of a massive global player base.

The topic of Palworld has reached a reading volume of 230 million times and received 17,000 discussions on Weibo. In addition to sharing game screenshots and discussing gameplay for each level, players have also been commenting ‘New Pal, wait for me to catch you’ and other remarks. On short video platforms, this topic has also reached a playback volume of 570 million times. Furthermore, on the gaming platform Steam, this game has received over 50,000 reviews.

Pocketpair CEO Takuro Mizobe stated that during the development of the game ‘Palworld’, there were only three or four people involved, and most of them were new members. After one year, the team size increased to around 10 people, and it has been increasing by 10 to 20 people every year since then. Currently in its third year, the company only has one network engineer.

With this ‘grassroots team,’ as the number of players increases, it is apparent that the maintenance of the online servers is somewhat inadequate, and the game has experienced multiple instances of crashing. The official statement indicates that due to a surge in global player numbers, online services have encountered high loads, resulting in connection issues with multiplayer mode and servers. This not only reflects the tremendous success achieved after the game’s release but also implies the emergence of a significant business opportunity for private game servers.

Tencent Cloud competes for business opportunities.

After realizing the needs of players, cloud server providers have quickly entered the market and started a new round of price wars.

Tencent Cloud directly released a tutorial on how to set up a private server for the game ‘Palworld’ through their official website and WeChat public account, along with recommended pricing configurations posted below the tutorial.

In addition to providing tutorials, Tencent Cloud also prominently displays packages suitable for gamers at the latest discounted prices. Among them, the commonly used package by players with 4 cores and 16GB RAM, and a bandwidth of 14M is directly offered at a discounted price of 66 yuan/month for new users, which is a 50% off.

While the official website of Alibaba Cloud does not explicitly mention any information about Palworld, it has recently launched a package called ‘Hot-selling Game Online Cloud Server.’ The 4-core 16GB package is even cheaper than Tencent‘s, priced at only 32.25 yuan per month with a discount of 0.75. However, compared to Tencent‘s 66 yuan package, Alibaba Cloud’s package only offers a bandwidth of 3Mbps.

Before this new round of price war, Alibaba Cloud and Tencent Cloud have already engaged in multiple rounds of price wars in 2023.

At the Alibaba Cloud Partner Summit held on April 26th last year, Alibaba Cloud announced the launch of the largest-ever price reduction. The prices of core products were reduced by 15% to 50%, and storage products saw a maximum decrease of 50%.

On the evening of May 16, 20 days later, Tencent Cloud also announced price reductions for multiple core cloud products. The maximum reduction for some product lines is up to 40%, and it will officially take effect on June 1.

Specifically, in this price reduction plan, Tencent Cloud will further increase the discount for some regional cloud server instances, with the highest price reduction reaching 40%. In terms of cloud networking, Load Balancer CLB’s LCU fee will be reduced by 18%, and Standard NAT Gateway will be reduced by 15%. In terms of databases, Tencent Cloud’s TDSQL-Cserverless introduces a new resource package payment model. The listed price is up to 25% lower compared to the same specification annual/monthly subscription products. The serverless feature that bills based on actual usage can help users reduce costs by up to 80%. In terms of cloud security, Tencent Cloud Host Security Basic Edition will be freely available for small and medium-sized enterprises across the network. Asset management and one-click health check capabilities are also provided free of charge.

And just half a year after the significant price reduction in April, Alibaba Cloud and Tencent Cloud continued to engage in a close-range price war during the Double 11 event. In this event, Alibaba Cloud offered their lightweight 2-core 2GB RAM with 3M bandwidth server for only 87 yuan per year, while Tencent Cloud’s server with the same configuration was priced at 88 yuan per year.

SEE ALSO: Alibaba Cloud CTO Announces Creation of Comprehensive Large-Scale AI Model Training Platform

Why are there frequent price wars in the cloud market?

Behind the fierce price wars and competition for customers among major companies, there is a growing trend of consolidation in the Chinese cloud server market.

On January 15th, IDC released the ‘China Dedicated Cloud Services Market (1H2023) Tracker’ report, which showed that in the first half of 2023, the dedicated cloud services market grew by 26.6% year-on-year, with a total market size of 15.43 billion yuan (approximatly $2.15 billion).

The exclusive managed cloud service market grew by 25.8% year-on-year, reaching a scale of 15.08 billion yuan; the exclusive cloud-as-a-service market grew by 70.9% year-on-year, reaching a scale of 352 million yuan. The as-a-service market is still in its early stages of development and contributes limitedly to the overall market, occupying only a 2.3% share.

Looking back at the first half of 2023, the entire cloud computing market faced severe growth challenges due to the macroeconomic environment’s slower-than-expected recovery.

IDC pointed out that on one hand, the demand side has consciously started to control the growth rate of cloud spending; on the other hand, the internal competition within the supply side has led to a decrease in product prices. Exclusive cloud services, with their characteristic of ‘reducing initial investment,’ have performed better in the market than other areas of the overall cloud computing market. In particular, the continuous release of demand from government customers for exclusive hosted clouds has become a solid driving force for market growth and contributed 65.2% of total revenue in the overall market.

Furthermore, according to the ‘China Public Cloud Services Market (Q3 2023) Tracker’ report released by IDC on January 23rd, the market size of China’s public cloud (IaaS+PaaS) in the third quarter of 2023 reached 53.566 billion yuan, an increase of 7.21 billion yuan compared to the same period last year.

From the perspective of suppliers, the market share of leading player Alibaba Cloud has significantly decreased, dropping from 32.5% in the same period last year to 26.7%.

The market share lost by Alibaba Cloud has been divided among Huawei Cloud, Tianyi Cloud, and Mobile Cloud. Among them, Mobile Cloud’s market share has significantly increased from 5.5% in the same period last year to 8.3%. In terms of revenue, it has grown by 74.6% year-on-year, reaching 4.433 billion yuan.

And Tencent Cloud, which is also a close competitor of Alibaba Cloud, saw its market share decrease from 9.9% in 2022 to 9.5% in 2023. This indirectly confirms that both Tencent Cloud and Alibaba Cloud have faced difficulties in expanding their market share or exploring opportunities in the corporate sector.

To make up for the lost market share, both Alibaba Cloud and Tencent Cloud clearly need to seek out and seize any possible increments. The explosive popularity of ‘Palworld’ has given them an opportunity to capture new players.