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E-sports in China, in the past, present and post COVID-19 Period

This article is a newest report of China’s booming e-sports industry, and where it would go in post Covid_19 Peroid.

Junxue Li, Blogger

April 1, 2020

4 Min Read

Fast Expanding E-sports Market in China

With the moment that Chinese e-sports team Invictus Gaming defeated Fnatic with the score 3-0 to claim the championship of the 2018 League of Legends World Championship, e-sports was once again catapulted into public view in China.

The global market is exploding, marked by milestones such as in 2019 its scale had hit one billion USD for the first time. And the Chinese market is riding this tide too. By 2020, the Chinese market value is expected to exceed 200 billion yuan ($3 billion). And  in 2022, there would be 430 million e-sports users in China, which means that nearly a quarter of Chinese are paying attention to e-sports. The rise of the e-sports industry and e-sports culture in mainstream society is amazing, and the future may be brighter.


What we should take note is the revenue structure, game revenue accounts for about 90%, which means live broadcasts, events, and tournaments income combined is less than 10%.

Tech giants like Alibaba Group and Tencent are racing to engage in the e-sports industry. Alibaba has invested in its top-tier e-sports tournament around China, World Electronic Sports Games.


E-sports industry is booming in 2020 with the governmental supports

Early in 2008, State Administration of Sport of China had redefined e-sports as the No. 78 sport. And ever since then, the Chinese government has steadfastly supported the sport by pushing forward policies which facilitate its growth, and drawing investment to the industry.  

Taking Shanghai as an example, its goal is to build the city as the "Global Capital of E-sports ". The highly anticipated 2020 League of Legends Pro League (LPL) Spring Season had for the first time moved online on March 9, 2020. Six top Chinese teams including RNG and FPX made side-by-side presence on the first day, making Shanghai once again the focus of fans around the world. Shanghai government has also made great contributions in encouraging e-sports companies to launch online competitions, and providing them with financial supports.

Following Beijing and Shanghai, other major cities in China, such as Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Xi’an have also joined the race. Along with them are many small and medium size cities, coming up with multi-billion’s worth of investments plans.


Chinese Teams And Performance

E-sports was born in this century, it belongs to the youth. And in China with parents’ open attitude towards video games and policy support, Chinese youngsters have outstanding performance in various world competitions. You can see a demonstration of the Chinese teams’ strength in below chart.


Under COVID-19, Chinese Tournaments Experimenting New Online Solutions

With the current outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, a full array of e-sports events which are scheduled to take place in China, have been postponed or cancelled, such as League of Legends, Cross the Fire, Overwatch League , Jedi Survival, and Pokémon.


Compared to traditional sports, born out of video games and the Internet, e-sports seem to have an inborn advantage in going online. But why do these events prefer to be postponed or cancelled instead of going online?


There are some big concerns. Firstly, How to ensure the fairness is a big issue. The audience would automatically consider online gaming “black boxes”. Secondly, compared to offline, online games do not have enough attractiveness to be commercialized. For instance, in offline mode brand sponsorship and ticket revenue account for 48% of the total revenue. The procedure of online games would be greatly simplified, and the amount of event-derived contents would be greatly reduced. And many of the brand implants and offline promotions of partners cannot be fully presented. Last but not least, the contestants and audiences alike would lose the excitements when it comes online.

Regardless of those drawbacks, a number of the Chinese tournaments would go online and experiment new solutions in this special time. For example, Arena of Valor Professional League going online will help promoting the standardization of the online gaming system. As regarding to the fairness issue, the league will send 2-3 referees to the base of each team for adjudication, and they would take videos, which are used for monitoring and evidence collecting during the games. Videos of the players, their hands, and equipment will be taken by monitoring equipment simultaneously. In addition, the tournaments will use standardized anti-cheating equipment, prohibiting the use of unofficially designated electronic devices, and the use of Internet connections of any form.



In this pandemic period, the Chinese industry is trying hard to overcome the hardships. And every business/organization involved in the e-sports is actively making plans for the post-pandemic period. For example, the Beijing government had already taken the lead to put forth policies for the post pandemic period recovery and development of e-sports. When the situation is restored to normal, we will surely embrace a bright tomorrow of Chinese e-sports!


I will regularly bring you interesting news/stories from Chinese game industry on Instagram: @sunnypaintermedia, and Twitter: @SPmedia_China, please follow me, many thanks!


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