According to German tabloid Bild, Tencent has plans to acquire Germany-based Crytek for over €300 million via its European subsidiary.
Tencent snapping up Western game companies is hardly unusual, but Bild claims that it’s not games that the Chinese giant might be after in this particular case.
Here’s the thing. While Crytek has used its CryEngine to power titles like Crysis, Far Cry or Hunt: Showdown, the company’s subsidiary RealTime Immersive (currently known as Mass Virtual) has been using the tech to develop military sims for the armies of the several NATO countries. According to “Video Games: An Introduction to the Industry” by Andy Bossom and Ben Dunning, a simulator called Virtual Attain developed by RealTime Immersive is used by the US army “to train advanced situational awareness to soldiers as part of their core training.”
Image Credit: RealTime Immersive Inc.
And it’s not just armies. Defence and security tech giants, including Lockheed Martin from the USA, ThyssenKrupp from Germany and Thales from France, use CryEngine to simulate the use of their weapons, Bild claims.
Now, enter Tencent.
Bild cites multiple employees of Crytek, based in Frankfurt, who voice concerns over the looming deal. They are afraid that after the acquisition by Tencent, CryEngine will fall into the hands of China’s People’s Liberation Army. Something that is bound to happen, according to the report, given Tencent’s alleged connections with the Communist Party of China.
“With these [military sims],” Bild warns, “China could rehearse the war against Taiwan and the West more realistically than ever before.” The newspaper states that Tencent is mostly run by the members of the Communist Party of China.
An even bigger concern is that “China will use its ownership of the company to spy on western militaries and arms manufacturers, using CryEngine.” The tabloid does not specify how exactly this can be accomplished.
While both Tencent and CryTek have declined to comment on the report, defense expert Henning Otte thinks the sale of Crytek must be stopped if it can be proved that the Chinese giant has non-commercial plans for the company. Bild also hinted that it has more information on the reported acquisition, which cannot be revealed at the moment to protect the tabloid’s sources.
Now it’s perfectly clear that Crytek has indeed been in talks with potential buyers. But elevating the potential acquisition to the level of a national security threat might not necessarily be justified. According to Niko Partners’ Daniel Ahmad, Bild might just be “trying to sensationalise a rumor.” Hence, maximum skepticism. At least until Bild releases more information that it claims to be holding off for the time being.