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Behind the scenes of Honor of Kings’ long-awaited global debut

We got the chance to sit down with the Honor of Kings development team ahead of the immensely popular mobile MOBA’s launch for the global market.

Honor of Kings interview: New hero Yuhuan on a blurred gameplay screenshot

Despite technically being the world’s most popular mobile MOBA with over 200 million registered players, most people outside of China have never heard of Honor of Kings. That is until recently when the Tencent game finally revealed plans to take the plunge into the global market in 2024.

Even the best mobile MOBAs that rely on existing IP like League of Legends: Wild Rift and Pokémon Unite have struggled to take off in the West, which is why it’s taken nearly ten years for Honor of Kings (HoK) to spread its wings outside of mainland China. Tencent’s TiMi Group previously tried to find global success with Arena of Valor, a reskinned version of HoK designed for a Western audience. Despite releasing around the world on mobile and the Nintendo Switch, it has never reached the original game’s heights.

At long last, the global Honor of Kings release date is just over a month away, so we can finally experience the mobile MOBA action for ourselves as it was intended. The game’s global roll-out began in Brazil and has already picked up traction, painting a positive picture for the full global release.

Ahead of the big day, we got to attend a press briefing and interview session with three members of the Honor of Kings development team. We spoke to Chief Designer Dean Huang, Head of eSports Feng, and Head of Localization, Narrative Design, and Partnerships Henry Li about the future of the game and the decision to bring HoK to the world.

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In your presentation, you mentioned that Honor of Kings is mobile-only, with no plans of bringing it to PC or consoles in the future. What made you decide on mobile as the sole platform, and how have you tailored the game to the platform?

Dean Huang: “The MOBA genre originated on PC and found great success, but we wanted to break down the entry cost barrier of owning a PC rig and offer players a new way to experience the genre on a platform that was easily accessible to a far larger audience. We therefore designed Honor of Kings from the ground up for mobile devices. You can see this in the interface, the short match length, and small packet size.

As handsets have become more powerful we have utilized their technical advances to deliver an even better experience for our players, all the while ensuring that the game remains scalable for those playing on older devices.”

Will previous IP crossovers such as the Hello Kitty collaboration come to the global version in due course? Or can global players expect unique/exclusive partnerships in the future?

Henry Li: “Yes, I am happy to say that previous collaborations will come to the global version from launch and beyond. Looking ahead, we have a number of partnerships due between now and the end of the year, and we will share more details as soon as we can.”

Honor of Kings interview: A screenshot of the game's main menu screen, featuring two female characters and a button that clearly shows the Hello Kitty collaboration

HoK is launching with 85 of the game’s 105 characters – how did you choose who to cut from the launch roster? How difficult is it to balance them and make all of them playable without a few emerging as top-tier picks for all players?

DH: “Naturally, we want the on-boarding process for new players to be as smooth as possible, so balanced Heroes with the opportunity for counterplay are really important. In addition, we want to offer a diverse and well-balanced Hero roster so players can experience different ways to play before settling on their preferred Hero or Heroes. To facilitate this, all Heroes will be free to try in the first month.

We believe our Hero pool has enough depth to accommodate both novice players and those with MOBA experience. Our pre-selection system also supports players in providing their preferred lanes in advance, ensuring balance in Hero selection.”

What events and announcements can the global player base look forward to this year?

Feng: “We will be dropping new Heroes, skins, and in-game events as the year progresses. Stay tuned for more details.

From an esports perspective, we are proud that Honor of Kings will be one of the featured games at the Esports World Cup and we also look forward to crowning the first winner of the all-new Invitational Series. The competitive scene is something we are heavily supporting with a current investment of $15M to establish a clear path for our players to make it from grass-roots to professional.”

Honor of Kings interview: A screenshot of Kongming's in-game character menu and model

From June 29, international players will get the chance to compete in the Invitational Season 2 tournament in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Teams from Southeast Asia, Brazil, Turkey, MENA, LATAM, and Europe will compete for their share of a $300k prize pool and an invite to compete in the Esports World Cup in Riyadh later this year.

Hopefully, these insights have got you excited for the global Honor of Kings launch. We’ve got plenty more content to help you prepare, like a list of all the Honor of Kings characters, an Honor of Kings tier list, Honor of Kings codes, and an explainer on Honor of Kings and League of Legends’ differences for those of you familiar with the PC MOBA.