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The Game Awards just found an extra 1.5B viewers

QQ, WeChat and Tencent News

The Game Awards trophy by Weta screencap 1920

When the third annual Game Awards kicks off next month in Los Angeles it will be streaming live to an audience that could include an extra 1.5 billion people or so.

Billed as the Oscars of video games, The Game Awards is packed with massive video game reveals and the recognition of the best in gaming in 2016. The show is streamed on, among other places, Twitch, Youtube and game consoles.

This year the show is expanding the way it finds audience in a number of interesting ways, including the use of Facebook and virtual reality. But the biggest addition to come to the show is China.

Chinese multimedia giant Tencent plans to air a live localized version of the show across the country using a number of platforms including its instant messaging QQ and WeChat services. Those two alone have about 1.5 billion active users. The program will be translated live and viewers in China will be able to vote on a special Fans Choice Awards using the Tencent News App with the winner announced during the global broadcast.

The partnership between Tencent and show creator Geoff Keighley provides an interesting way for the game industry to access a market it has long struggled to address directly.

Tencent QQ penguin

It wasn't until last summer that the ban on video game consoles was finally, fully and officially lifted. Perhaps because of that, computer and mobile games are the most popular gaming platforms in China right now.

"From everything I've read China is already the biggest gaming market in the world," Keighley told me recently. "Western games and consoles have only just started being released there, but the PC and mobile space is massive."

And the reach and influence that the traditional media which cover video games have in China is very minimal. Keighley's own YouTube show, for instance, isn't available in China, nor are services like Twitter and Facebook.

So this opportunity comes not just with great potential, but quite a lot of unanswered questions.

"I'm honestly not sure of the audience makeup," Keighley said. "We know PC gaming is big over there, as is eSports. A lot of the show sponsors have told us that China is a massive emerging market for them. We're letting Tencent guide us over there, and they have a significant amount of editorial games coverage on the Tencent News site and, their portal.

"I imagine there's a curiosity around the show and the types of games we will showcase."

WoW bros

That interest goes beyond Western gaming. Keighley points out that Tencent has been very interested lately in testing out how other Western shows do in China.

"It's really an experiment, but I know that they have aired programs like the People's Choice Awards over there and even the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show and they have performed well."

And it seems that the experimental relationship between Keighley and Tencent isn't just tied to the Dec. 1 Game Awards. In January, Keighley will be flying out to China to attend Tencent's local video game award show and perhaps present during it.

"The thing with the game industry in China is that I don't really know enough about it," Keighley said. "I know [World of Warcraft developer] Blizzard is huge over there. I know that there's a Call of Duty made for China and that 2K did an NBA Online game. But I haven't done a good enough job of understanding what's happening over there, what's successful."

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