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Viral Chinese game draws big money from Nike, McDonald's

The jumping game, accessed via Chinese social messaging app WeChat, attracted over a million players within two weeks of its launch. Now international brands are leveraging that popularity.

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"Tiao Yi Tiao" (or "Jump") is a wildly popular mini game developed by Chinese tech giant, Tencent. Users access the game from its social messaging app, WeChat. 

Screengrab by Zoey Chong/CNET

Foreign countries may be growing wary of products developed in China, but that hasn't stopped international brands from leveraging WeChat's popularity and reportedly spending millions to engage with potential customers.

Nike and McDonald's have become the first companies to advertise on the Chinese social-messaging platform's wildly popular mini game called Tiao Yi Tiao, loosely translated as Jump, WeChat announced on Wednesday.

Leaked images show the ads are allegedly priced at 5 million yuan (almost $791 thousand) per day or 20 million yuan (nearly $3.2 million) for five days, Sixth Tone reported. By comparison, a 30-second Super Bowl spot, the most expensive airtime in the US, costs about $5 million, Sixth Tone added.

Tencent, which owns WeChat, didn't immediately reply to our request for confirmation and clarification.

Jump, which amassed 100 million players within two weeks of its December launch, is easy to play: Simply touch anywhere on the screen to get a little black figure to jump from one block to another. These blocks are positioned at various distances, so users have to determine how far they want the figure to leap by adjusting how long they hold down onto the screen. Every successful jump earns points for the user and some blocks are worth more.

Nike and McDonald's' ad purchases let them customise their own blocks in terms of appearances and bonuses and add special effects, such as sound. Nike, for instance, designed its block to change to feature the words "Nike React" when a player jumps on it. The player also earns an additional bonus by waiting just a few seconds, after which the word "Go" appears.

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Nike's shoe box changes when the player jumps onto it. Staying for a few seconds earns the player an additional bonus.

Screengrab by Zoey Chong/CNET

McDonald's designed its block so it changes its appearance to feature its slogan, "I'm lovin' it," when the player arrives. A quick sound effect also plays, and if the player remains on the block for a few seconds, he or she gets an additional bonus too, and sees either burgers or french fries appearing out of the block.

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McDonald's also added special effects to its blocks on "Jump," including sound effects.

Screengrab by Zoey Chong/CNET

Governments around the world have cited security concerns over Chinese made products such as WeChat. The Australian Defence Department barred its officials from downloading the app on their phones this month, after FBI Director Christopher Wray in February expressed concerns about the risk Chinese phone brands Huawei and ZTE pose to US security.

But WeChat enjoys massive popularity, with over a billion users registered globally, according to Tencent CEO Pony Ma. Tencent, which became the first Chinese tech company to be valued over $500 billion, is also a game developer that owns hits such as League of Legends and Honour of Kings (an international version called Arena of Valour was launched in the US in December). Honour of Kings held the top spot on the Chinese App Store for almost a year before losing out to PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, but Tencent holds exclusive rights to the game too in China. It's not new to mini games either, having developed a clapping game that lets users applaud Chinese President Xi Jinping last October. That game recorded more than a billion claps.

Before it began letting brands buy ads on the game, WeChat designed the blocks so they portrayed little details about the company to players, including its mascots, a surface that reads 433 days (which users online said refers to the number of days it took for the platform to cross 100 million users) and its services including a manless convenience store called "Xu Ji Shi Duo" and digital wallet WeChat Pay.

Nike and McDonald's didn't immediately reply to our request for comment.

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