Subscribe to our newsletter

     By signing up, you agree to our Terms Of Use.


    • About Us
    • |
    • Contribute
    • |
    • Contact Us
    • |
    • Sitemap

    China’s Top Tech Giants Clash on Social Media Over Plagiarism Claims

    NetEase has accused Tencent’s “Honor of Kings” of copying its character art, sparking widespread online debate.

    Two of China’s top tech giants, NetEase and Tencent, have taken their battle over copyright infringement accusations to social media, engaging in a heated dispute over the art design of two digital characters in their respective mobile games, “Onmyoji” and “Honor of Kings.”

    Last week, the official account of “Onmyoji,” a mobile game launched in 2016 by NetEase, posted a letter from its law firm on the microblogging platform Weibo warning Tencent’s “Honor of Kings” of copyright infringement and unfair competition.

    According to Netease, the two designs in question comprised a new skin for the “Honor of Kings” character Li Bai, introduced in January, and Dasiming, a character debuted on Thursday. The letter demanded that Tencent promptly address all allegations of plagiarizing two “Onmyoji” character designs.

    An hour later, the “Onmyoji” official account took to Weibo again, this time posting a screenshot featuring a derogatory phrase to mock “Honor of Kings.” “If you want to cooperate, you can contact us directly. ‘Onmyoji’ is an original game, not some library,” it stated.

    Over 70,000 fans shared the second post, particularly after the “Onmyoji” account announced that 20 players who shared the post on social media would receive the game’s newest digital skin.

    On social media, a hashtag related to the “Onmyoji” letter to “Honor of Kings” drew over 100 million views, with tens of millions of users participating in the debate.

    In response, “Honor of Kings” accused “Onmyoji” of defamation in their own Weibo post three hours later, while pledging to pursue legal action. “Honor of Kings” argued that they have been wrongfully accused of plagiarism, highlighting previous instances where “some games” were suspected of copying their characters.

    A spokesperson for “Honor of Kings” confirmed to Sixth Tone Monday that their post was intended to deny all accusations of plagiarism made by “Onmyoji,” including the two instances specified in the lawyer’s letter. NetEase didn’t respond to Sixth Tone’s interview request.

    The two video games are among the most popular in China, with the sale of digital skins a major source of revenue.

    In the last quarter of 2023, “Honor of Kings” boasted approximately 146 million monthly active users in China, ranking among the top in global mobile game sales charts. And though its popularity is currently waning, in 2017, “Onmyoji” saw worldwide downloads reach 200 million and daily active users hit 10 million.

    This isn’t the first time the two companies have accused each other of plagiarism. In 2017, a designer for “Onmyoji” facing plagiarism charges was forced to issue a public apology but denied any wrongdoing. While in 2022, “For All Time,” another game developed by NetEase, accused “Honor of Kings” of plagiarizing artwork, an accusation Tencent vehemently denied.

    Editor: Apurva.

    (Header image: A promotional photo of Li Bai for Honor of Kings. From Weibo)