While the traditional sports world has struggled during the pandemic, the eSports industry is growing in prominence due to its digital advantages. China’s eSports market has been expanding so quickly that it is difficult to measure its value. Estimations range from one billion dollars to well over 20 billion with a userbase exceeding 487 million. Accelerated by coronavirus stay-at-home orders, the already thriving market has reached record online viewing highs. With the support of government and investors, China is on course to dethrone North America as the world’s largest eSports kingdom.
The journey to create legends
Electronic sports is a form of competitive gaming in which teams of players, usually 4 to 6 people, compete against each other in video games. Just like grass sports, eSports emphasizes teamwork, communication, strategy, and sportsmanship. The Chinese government has publicly backed the growth of eSports, announcing it as an official sport in 2003. Aiming at a world dominance as a source of national pride, China added eSports into its national curriculum in 2019, providing scholarships for top-notch gamers.
With such a commitment, the number of professional players surged from 97 in 2008 to 817 in 2020, bringing home trophies from major tournaments like the LOL World Championship and Dota 2 The International. In terms of tournament prize winnings, China rose to number one for a few years but came off second best behind the United States after 2018.
The big money is pouring in
Internet companies are also betting big on this gaming arena. The main reason: a multifaceted market with a variety of revenue streams from tournament ticket sales to team sponsorship, streaming revenue, merchandise, and in-game sales. Tencent's eSports venture is huge and is powerfully entrenched with its own ecosystem. The entertainment powerhouse is not only the major game publisher in China, but also a tournament organizer, an investor in eSports clubs and teams, as well as the owner of China's game streaming duopoly (Huya and Douyu).
Other tech magnates are joining the race too: Google and NetEase focus on eSports streaming and infrastructure; Alibaba holds its own top-tier eSports tournament - World Electronic Sports Games; Kuaishou and Sina have their eSports pro teams. In the meantime, more brands have scoped out the eSports marketing potential and increased sponsorship and ad spending.
The Easter egg: mobile and female eSports
It is not just PC eSports, China is also on the leading edge of the emerging mobile gaming scene. Tencent’s mobile games Honor of Kings and PUBG Mobile are set to become the next professional scene with top players attracting several millions of streamers. Another lucrative market is female eSports. Whereas eSports was once an industry dominated by men, gaming enthusiasm is growing among women, reflected in a rising viewership share and a higher consumer spending tendency. Looking to the future, China’s 5G technology is expected to solve the latency and speed problems in online games, taking eSports to new heights along with other AI and VR advancements.
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In the following 6 chapters, you will quickly find the 36 most important statistics relating to "eSports market in China".