Alibaba to launch mobile games platform in competition with Tencent

As the Chinese smartphone market continues to heat up — mobile app trends site Flurry noted last summer that the country is already accounting for a quarter of the entire world’s device install base — it’s not just hardware developers scrambling for attention. Alibaba, China’s closest analogue to Amazon(s amzn), announced that it will pursue the development of a proprietary mobile gaming platform alongside its already-existing messaging and mobile shopping channels. TechCrunch says that a games platform would put the company in direct competition with popular Chinese app distributor Tencent.

While it has been mostly known for its ecommerce offerings, Alibaba likely couldn’t stay away from the ripe mobile games market burgeoning in China. According to Flurry, Chinese smartphone users spent roughly 64 percent of use time in game apps — significantly larger than any country. In addition, nearly two-thirds of time spent on apps in China is done with apps that were made within the country. Alibaba has some intriguing data of its own on the market, also: mobile gamers now represent 63 percent of all online gamers in the country, swelling the market to  ¥11.2 billion ($18.5 billion).

But in order to gain traction, Alibaba will have to go toe-to-toe with Tencent, arguably the most successful Chinese company in the mobile games space right now. Alibaba does have some novelty to it to attract users — most notably a 7:2:1 revenue model that gives 10% of all proceeds to charity — and in a market that has yet to have reliable 4G, this battle is still young enough to be worth the company’s time. What this most shows the most, though, is how exciting China’s mobile space is becoming, and its rich market is only getting richer.