Lightspeed Studios has only just got started. Formerly Lightspeed & Quantum, the Tencent-owned outfit is currently best known for co-developing PUBG Mobile (with Krafton) and Apex Legends Mobile (with Respawn).
And yet it’s still, weirdly, a little under the radar. That’s despite having teams based in China, US, UK, Singapore, Canada, France, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand and UAE, with over 50 games developed across all platforms since its formation in 2008. In that time it has grown from a 100-person start-up to over 4,000 staff, as it stands today.
So after co-launching two of the biggest IPs on mobile, what’s next for Lightspeed? And who exactly is in charge?
Cilight Yang joined Tencent straight out of university in 2006, and has since worked his way up to become general manager of global game strategy and development. Yang oversees development on PUBG Mobile and manages Lightspeed’s relationship with Krafton, Riot (for the Chinese version of Wild Rift) and EA (for Apex).
Meanwhile in North America, Lando Tian leads Lightspeed’s five offices across the US and Canada (Irvine, Playa Vista, Seattle, Toronto and Montreal). Tian joined Tencent in 2014 and initially worked within the company’s VR and XR departments before starting to build out Lightspeed’s North American presence in 2018.
From Yang and Tian’s remarks in our email interview, it’s not hard to figure out that there’s something else brewing at Lightspeed that’s on the same scale as a PUBG Mobile or Apex Legends Mobile. It’s just not clear what it is – yet.
“To bring top IP and authentic game experiences to global players, we are of course looking to build long term partnerships with leading game developers and publishers around the world,” Cilight Yang tells us.
“We will keep leveraging our strong R&D capability and long-term operation experiences to create great games with our partners together. Building upon our track record, development capabilities and pipeline, we will also invest to create more original IPs. Please stay tuned for our existing triple-A game projects.”
North America boss Lando Tian also references “working closely with North America IP owners to convert their PC and console IPs to mobile”.
And he says Lightspeed has “several projects” to be announced. “I believe most great game IPs have great potential to go mobile and it will be a trend to provide cross-platform experiences for gamers to meet their different needs,” Tian tells us.
“The expansion will bring great revenue streams and create phenomenal market influence and success as we did with PUBG Mobile. We hope PC and console game IP owners can implement this formula to achieve even higher success.” And Lightspeed is keen to help, clearly.
Yang says that when picking projects, Lightspeed takes a ‘quality over quantity’ approach, and has titles in development across a “broad range of genres”. He’s also pretty bullish on the lines between platforms getting blurrier and the pivotal role mobile plays in the ecosystem.
“Cross-platform play is inevitable, especially when mobile devices have become as powerful as consoles and PCs,” says Yang. “We believe that players won’t be limited in their choice of platform or device.”
“This does not mean that all our games will be multi-platform – that depends on specific genre and gameplay,” he continues. “Bringing the best experiences to gamers will always be our goal, not what kind of platform we are focusing on.”
On expanding its operations further, Yang says Lightspeed will continue to grow organically, and says of acquisitions that he is “open to exploring other opportunities worldwide.”
“We will continue our expansion in regions where the most talent in the videogame industry is – such as Japan, the UK and Canada. Some regions are growing rapidly and have strong prospects for the next few years – Singapore is at the top of the list in this category.”
Lightspeed’s global presence is a bit of a theme here. Where once there was an east/west divide in both player tastes and development practices, increasingly these barriers are melting away, says Tian.
“We have seen the great success of League of Legends in China, Korea and Japan, and we also have seen Genshin gain popularity in western markets too,” says Tian. “I think the convergence is happening right now, and we hope we can play our part in this convergence.”
There are other plans afoot further out, too. As it rebranded earlier this year, Lightspeed put out a hype video (below) and a series of announcements that sounded pretty, well, metaversey.
“Our vision over the next 10 years is to create an ecosystem that connects players and developers around the world – we call it the Lightspeed Universe,” says Yang. “The Lightspeed Universe is driven by great stories, great gameplay and next-gen technology. And we’re building it through investments in talent, R&D and a global development platform.”
It’s not just games. A new division, Lightspeed Pictures, will handle animation, TV series and movies using the original IP Lightspeed is working on.
But let’s bring it back to the here and now. With every round of financial results, big traditional console and PC publishers like EA, Ubisoft and Take-Two talk up their prospects in mobile, but there’s little to show for it just yet.
So we’d bet good money on Lightspeed bringing another prestige IP to mobile on par with Apex or PUBG sooner than you think. As Yang says: “stay tuned”.