After the short-lived success of the metaverse social app Zheli last year, which was hailed as a challenger to WeChat, Tencent is preparing to launch its own answer to the buzz.
A report from Tech Planet describes the app, called M8, as a “map-based” social platform, where users can create 3D avatars and check the status of their friends (including their phone battery percentage and location send messages), send messages, and share any interesting places or activities. The project is currently undergoing internal testing under the supervision of QQ team at Tencent and may be externally tested as soon as later this month.
The news comes over a year after the rapid rise and fall of Zheli, a similar platform developed by Beijing Yidian Digital Entertainment and launched in January 2022. The platform allowed users to create 3D avatars and share their daily lives with friends. The platform rapidly became a huge social phenomenon with netizens across all China’s major platforms sharing images of their own unique Zheli avatars. The excitement was partially spurred by the huge range of customisation options available for the avatars, which were closely in tune with recent fashion trends.
Zheli was hailed as a rare rival to WeChat after it jumped to the top of iOS free app rankings in China. However, the developers were soon after accused of plagiarising the avatar clothing designs from Xiaohongshu. Users also complained that the app had data privacy issues and gameplay lags, spurring the developers to take the game offline after only a month.
WeChat has become an invaluable business tool and the default location for workplace communications. This blurs the boundary between work and personal life and, for young people in particular, spurs the need for a new clubhouse-style virtual experience with a close circle of friends. As the creators of WeChat, Tencent’s team may be most well-equipped to create the next big metaverse alternative to the super-app.