Honor of Kings (simplified Chinese: 王者荣耀; traditional Chinese: 王者榮耀; pinyin: Wángzhě Róngyào; lit. ‘King’s glory’, unofficially translated as King of Glory, or alternatively transliterated as Wang Zhe Rong Yao), is a multiplayer online battle arena developed by TiMi Studio Group and published by Tencent Games for the iOS and Android mobile platforms for the Chinese market. Honor of Kings previously was named as League of Kings (Chinese: 王者联盟; pinyin: Wángzhě Liánméng), but was later renamed to respond to Riot Games’ complaints of potential intellectual property infringement from League of Legends.
Released in 2015, it has become the hottest MOBA game in mainland China. An international adaptation, titled Arena of Valor, was released in October 2016; it utilizes the same game engine and UI design but with greatly altered heroes to accommodate the Western market. By 2017, Honor of Kings had over 80 million daily active players and 200 million monthly active players, and was among the world’s most popular and one of the highest-grossing games of all time as well as the most downloaded app globally. As of November 2020, the game has over 100 million daily active players.[external_link_head]
- 1 Overview
- 2 Gameplay
- 2.1 Game modes
- 2.2 Arcade Modes
- 3 Characters
- 4 History
- 5 Revenue model
- 6 Soundtrack
- 7 Addiction concerns
- 8 References
- 9 External links
Honor of Kings is a mobile multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game, one of the first of its kind inspired by League of Legends, the latter being developed and published by Riot Games, a subsidiary of Tencent.
Either a Tencent QQ account or a WeChat account is required to play the game. If two players use the same account type on different mobile platforms (for example both have WeChat accounts, but one player uses an iOS device and the other uses an Android device), cross-platform multiplayer is possible and with the latest update on September 24, 2020, a player can add friends and invite people from different platforms to clans. Different account types (QQ and/or Wechat) cannot access the other’s matchmaking queue, even when using the same platform.[citation needed ]
In February 2021, Honor of Kings was the second highest-earning mobile game worldwide for February 2021 with $218.5 million in gross revenue, which represented 57.2 percent year-over-year growth from February 2020. About 95.6 percent of Honor of Kings’ revenue was from China, followed by 1.6 percent from Thailand. 
The basic gameplay across all game modes involve controlling a character with unique abilities to kill non-player characters and opponents to gain experience and gold, with experience used to unlock their character’s abilities or further augment the ability’s power, and gold used to purchase items at the shop (which change specific attributes depending on the item bought). Players then coordinate to knock down enemy’s defensive structures called turrets, and victory is achieved by destroying the core building, located within the enemy team’s base. Specific gameplay mechanics vary depending on the game mode chosen.
Experience and gold are also earned across matches, which are applied to player accounts. Accounts start at level 1, with level 15 being the maximum level. Upon leveling up, users receive bonus in-game awards. Leveling up also unlocks certain summoners’ abilities that can be applied to every champion the summoner uses. Gold can be used for a variety of purposes, such as purchasing new champions.
Honor of Kings has a variety of game modes, with a majority of them focused on competitive matchmaking. When there is no network connection, players can choose stand-alone mode. When there is a network, players can choose a variety of battle modes. Players can either face off against each other in player versus player matches (including 1v1, 3v3, 5v5) or participate in various player versus environment adventure modes.
In each of the player vs player modes, there are options to battle AI players, otherwise known as computers. The AI could be set on easy, normal, or hard modes. Also, players can open ‘rooms’ where they can invite a friend or someone that they had recently battled with or against to battle with them. There is also an option to open a ‘draft room’ to do a 5v5 where everybody was invited by someone else in the room.
Valley of Kings (5v5)
Valley of Kings is the most commonly played game mode, with the Ranked game mode using the same game map (see Ranked below). Ten players, each controlling a hero, are split into two opposing teams of 5. The teams start on opposing ends of the map, with the victory conditions either being to destroy the enemy’s core building or the enemy team surrendering. To destroy the enemy nexus, teams must destroy defensive turrets, which are situated on the 3 main routes/lanes (top, middle, bottom) used to reach the enemy base.
As the turrets inflict heavy damage when approached without the aid of friendly minions which are periodically sent from the team’s base, players must attack the turrets with minions by their side. Turrets prioritize enemy minions within their vicinity, but will immediately target enemy heroes if they attack allied heroes within the turret’s range. Each player can increase their hero’s level and gain gold through killing enemy minions, heroes or neutral creatures situated between lanes (also known as the ‘jungle’).
Some creatures in the jungle also have certain status effects benefits (also known as ‘buffs’) which increases their hero’s attributes. There are 2 kinds of buffs, one blue and one red. The blue buff is used to faster regenerate mana, which many mages and supports use to unleash their abilities. The red buff is used to cause higher damage, often tines this is given to the assassin or the archer. Both types of buffs last for 80 seconds. Gold can then be spent in the shop to purchase items, also used to alter hero’s attributes (with some granting special temporary effects such as invincibility).
Ranked Matchmaking (5v5)[external_link offset=1]
Once a player’s account reaches level 6 and owns at least 5 champions, they are able to participate in ranked matchmaking. Players are able to join matchmaking either solo, in a groups of 2, groups of 3 and in groups of 5. Groups of 5 will only be matched with other groups of 5, and the same applies for groups of 3. The game’s matchmaking system will match appropriate teammates and opponents according to the player’s rank and win rate.
There are a total of 7 large matchmaking tiers, namely Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Diamond, Ace, King and High King in ascending order. Each large tier is further subdivided into several smaller tiers, denoted by their respective Roman numerals in descending order. In the Bronze and Silver tiers, there are 3 smaller tiers each (called Bronze III – I and Silver III – I); the Gold and Platinum tiers have 4 smaller tiers each (called Gold IV – I and Platinum IV – I); the Diamond and Ace tiers have 5 smaller tiers each (called Diamond V – I and Ace V – I); and the King tier uses a star system to determine rankings. If King players reach 50 stars, they are automatically promoted to High King, where High King players will be ranked within the entire game.
In each ranked matchmaking game, stars can be gained or lost depending on the outcome of the match. Winning the match grants the player 1 star, while losing deducts 1 star. There are 3 stars in Bronze and Silver, 4 Stars in Gold and Platinum and 5 stars in Diamond and Ace in each smaller tier. If a player wins a match and max out their stars, they will be promoted to the next smaller/larger tier; losing with 0 stars likewise will result in demotion.
The Honor system introduces a secondary system to stars: Points may be earned in every match for high in-game ratings, not disconnecting in the middle of matches and other performances. At a certain threshold, points will automatically be used to negate a loss/demotion. In other cases, the player could be promoted by maxing out points in the Honor system.
Matchmaking rankings are reset periodically, with every reset being known as a competitive ‘season’. Each season lasts approximately 3–4 months, with season awards being awarded to players according to the highest tier achieved. Each season has a dedicated cosmetic skin, and accumulating points in the Journey portal will grant players the skin, diamonds and other permanent special effects. The rank achieved at the end of a season is also used to calculate the starting ranking for the next season. Many times High Kings and Champions have to start back at Diamond depending on how many stars they have.
Battle of Changping (3v3)
The basic rules are similar to other game modes, with a total of 6 players (3 on each team). However, unlike other 5v5 game modes, there is only 1 lane/route to the enemy’s base, with two jungle areas to either side. Each team has two defensive turrets, with the victory conditions being the same as normal 5v5 game modes.
Mohist Mechatech (1v1, no jungle area)
This is a single combat mode with only 2 players facing against each other. In this mode, there is only one defensive turret, with base healing effects disabled and the ability to return to base disabled.
In this section, there are multiple game modes containing interesting buffs and playing methods.
Infinity Skirmish (5v5)
The basic rules are similar to Valley of Kings, however, this game mode has a faster pace. The defense turret has a lower health point, and the minions move faster. Every hero starts at level 2, and can gain gold and levels faster. The average game time is ten minutes. There are several buffs that are created randomly every two minutes, including cooling down time of abilities shorten by 40%, damage of abilities increased by 30%, movement of heroes increased by 100 points, attack speed of turret decreased by 80%, additional ability of a hook that could drag the opponent to one’s side, and invisibility which is removed when the player fights or goes near an opponent. This game mode requires players to adjust playing methods according to buffs to achieve victory. 
Dreamland Clash (5v5)
In this mode, the game randomizes heroes. Players can spend diamonds to reroll a new random hero, putting the unchosen one into a selection pool from which their teammates can choose. The arena only has one middle lane and a path that can generate healing or gold buffs. As time goes, the path will collapse and there will be one main lane to fight on. The minions are slightly different as well: when a player destroys their opponents’ second turret, special minions will be generated with more attacking damage.
Chess (8 players)
In this mode, there are eight players in total. Each turn, players are presented with five random cards representing different heroes, for which players can pay gold to purchase the heroes and place them on their own chess board. More powerful heroes cost more gold. Each hero starts with one star, and three same heroes would grant this hero two stars. The maximum star level is three. After each player places their heroes on the board, there will be fights of heroes between two players, with the defeated player losing health points. The fights take turns until the last player stands. The ranking system is similar to Ranked Matching (5v5).
Fiery Mountain Battle (5v5)
Gaming Arena of Fiery Mountain Battle.
This arena is circular and divided into 3 main lanes (top, middle, and bottom). Each player will spawn in either location A or B randomly. Each player starts with 800 initial gold, level 2, and an additional ability of fireball. Location 1, 2 and 3 will spawn jungle creatures. The outside of each lane is filled with lava which will make players lose health points and decrease movement speed. Each game has a time limit of ten minutes while the first team that reaches thirty kills will win immediately.
The additional ability of fireball causes no damage, but a knockback effect. This game mode has three kinds of random buffs, including 30 seconds of control-free effect, increasing movement speed, and increasing cooldown speed by 40%. The respawn time for each player is 15 seconds and the respawned player will be placed randomly within the arena.
Clone Fight (5v5)
The clone fight opens from Friday to Sunday. The basic rules are similar to Valley of Kings, however, the hero selection stage is different. In each game, the five players will vote for heroes, with the hero with the most votes being the one that the whole team uses for the entire game. If there is a tie, the system will choose one hero randomly. The two parties could use the same hero as well.
Players may choose between a wide variety of heroes, each with special abilities, cosmetic skins and backstories. There are a total of 105 heroes and they are generally classified as: Tank (defence-based), Warrior (close-combat), Assassin, Mage (magic damage), Archer (long-range physical damage) and Support. These heroes usually originate from folklore, mythology, or mythical creatures, with others coming from works of literature, television/movies and even other in-game heroes (based on the game’s internal folklore).
Additionally, Tencent collaborated with Japanese gaming company SNK to feature Mai Shiranui from the Fatal Fury and The King of Fighters series, and Charlotte, Ukyo Tachibana, Nakoruru, and Haohmaru from the Samurai Shodown series as guest characters in Honor of Kings. Similarly, Gongsun Li, a character from Honor of Kings, also appeared as a playable guest character in SNK’s 2019 fighting game Samurai Shodown.
After Tencent fully acquired Riot Games in 2015, Tencent asked them to make a mobile version of League of Legends, as multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games were very rare on mobile at the time, with Vainglory by Super Evil Megacorp (formed by ex-Riot Games employees) being the only notable title. Tencent wanted to seize the opportunity to dominate the mobile market because there aren’t any strong competitor aside from Vainglory.
However, Riot Games declined due to mobile game was not commonly seen as the platform for competitive games, and claimed that the gameplay of League of Legends could not be replicated on smartphones. Be that as it may, Tencent was still determined to launch a MOBA game on mobile. After having heard the refusal from Riot Games, Lightspeed & Quantum Studios and TiMi Studios (as both are also Tencent’s video game development studio) raced to develop a MOBA game that fit the bill, resulting an internal competition.[external_link offset=2]
Lightspeed & Quantum’s We MOBA and TiMi’s League of Kings (rough translation from 王者联盟/Wángzhě Liánméng) were launched on the same day, on August 18, 2015. A month later, We MOBA was already the third most-downloaded mobile game on Apple’s iOS worldwide, according to app analytics firm App Annie, while League of Kings was nowhere near We MOBA. League of Kings was then taken down for an overhaul, and was relaunched on October, 2015. TiMi Studios also used League of Legends as a base model to overhaul League of Kings, resulting both game having a lot of similarity. League of Kings also implemented 5v5 game mode due to the game previously having poor reception with 3v3 concept. This time, League of Kings overtook We MOBA and won the internal competition. Tencent relishes and invested additional resources into League of Kings to ensure its success.
Nevertheless, Riot Games deemed that the design of characters and abilities in League of Kings were “blatantly ripping off the intellectual property of League of Legends” after they discovered how the game was produced, and reportedly brought these concerns to Tencent. Tencent responded that they would change its own game enough to sell as a standalone product with no relation to League of Legends. Despite this, League of Kings had already gained massive popularity in China at this point due to the game was advertised as “mobile version of League of Legends” through social media and word-of-mouth marketing.
Tencent felt that it was too late to make huge changes to the game, so they renamed League of Kings (王者联盟/Wángzhě Liánméng) to Honor of Kings (王者荣耀/Wángzhě Róngyào) on November 26, 2015 (in which the date was marked as the official release date), and it only went through necessary changes. The international release of Honor of Kings was cancelled, and the game would have a western twin for markets outside mainland China which is rebranded and featured different contents, leading to the creation of Arena of Valor, which also served as a response to Riot Games’s complaints of “potential intellectual property infringement”.
Even so, Arena of Valor was reported to have caused a gradually straining business relationship between Riot Games and Tencent, and the relationship between the two firms became further strained when Tencent used notable League of Legends players to promote Arena of Valor and its esports tournaments. Riot Games’s complaints initiated a two-month marketing freeze for Arena of Valor and demands that that Riot Games would be given the option to review all marketing plans, including a veto for use of select celebrity gamers. Nonetheless, Riot Games implied that their relationship with Tencent is still strong, and the conflict between them and their games is only “a bump in the road”.
Riot Games eventually acknowledged the potential of the mobile market for the MOBA genre, and agreed to develop a mobile title for League of Legends. Tencent then temporarily pulled marketing plans for Arena of Valor in Europe and North America in 2019, clearing room for Riot Games’s announcement a few months later. Riot Games announced their own mobile MOBA game, League of Legends: Wild Rift on October 16, 2019, which is the 10th anniversary of League of Legends.
In addition, the succession of MOBA genre on mobile inspired the creation of Pokémon Unite, a Pokémon spin-off game, developed by TiMi Studio as well in a partnership with The Pokémon Company.
In 2016, the game had more than 50 million daily active users and more than 200 million registered users. The game grossed ¥10.4 billion ($1.61 billion) in the last quarter of 2016. In November 2016, Honor of Kings topped the 2016 China pan entertainment festival “China IP index value list – game list top 10”. In May 2017, it became the highest-grossing mobile game in the world. It had 160 million monthly active users. In May 2017, entertainer Lu Han was named ambassador of the game. In the month of February 2019, the game generated $1 billion. In 2020, the game grossed over $2.45 billion becoming the highest earning game of the year. 
Honor of Kings contributed about 50% of the Tencent’s mobile gaming revenues in 2017 and it made about ¥3 billion in gross revenue in April 2017 ($435 million). In June 2017, the analysis company APP Annie reported that Honor of Kings was the number 1 mobile game (excluding Android games) in the world in terms of income generated, with first quarter revenue of the game reaching $1.76 billion. A cosmetic hero skin of Zhao Yun also had sold for $22 million in one day. At the time, Tencent reported 200 million registered users with 50 million daily active users. The game grossed $911 million in the second quarter of 2017. Between the last quarter of 2016 and the second quarter of 2017, the game grossed $4.281 billion.
In response to the national day of mourning designated on April 4, 2020 by China for those who had given up their lives or had passed away from the COVID-19 pandemic, all of Tencent’s games announced a 24-hour suspension of service, which included Honor of Kings.
The game’s original soundtrack was composed by Hans Zimmer, Jeff Broadbent, Lorne Balfe and Duncan Watt, and was performed and recorded by The Chamber Orchestra of London at Abbey Road Studios in London.
A soundtrack album was released on 28 October 2015. The extended soundtrack released in year two includes every special event soundtrack since the game’s release. Multiple score composers collaborated on the album, including Howard Shore, Thomas Parisch and Marcin Przybylowicz.
Year III-IV theme music was composed by Neal Acree. Additional music was provided by Matthew Carl Earl, Obadiah Brown-Beach, and Angela Little.
On January 25, 2020, Unisonar released the game’s score digitally for the first time internationally. The score’s executive producers are Sam Yang and Cheney Wu, with coordination by Channel Chen, production by Vivita Zheng and Thomas Parisch, and Hongfei Zhao serving as music director. The album, Honor of Kings Original Game Soundtrack, Vol. 1, consists of 16 original tracks and was produced by TiMi Audio.
On July 4, 2017, it was reported that the game owner’s Tencent had suffered a loss of $14 billion, or 4.1%, on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange after the People’s Daily criticized Honor of Kings (Wangzhe Rongyao) as a “poison” for young people, calling the content “a twist of values and historical views” and addictive. Variety dubbed the two critical articles a “demonstration of the power of China’s state-run media and propaganda machine.” Honor of Kings producer Lin Min afterwards noted online that the game’s design “fully complied with government requirements” and argued that “just like other forms of entertainment, games can be [a non-addictive] part of our normal daily lives.”
In July 2017, Honor of Kings started limiting children under the age of 12 to one hour of play time per day, with an additional restriction from playing after 9pm. Children aged from 12 to 17 will be limited to two hours per day. It is believed that rising concerns over excessive gaming habits in children led Tencent to self-impose these restrictions.
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- Official website