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Esports on the Rise in China

Esports is one of the few industries to have flourished during the global pandemic as people were looking for alternative sources of entertainment after concerts, professional sporting events, gymnasiums, as well as theater and the arts had all been temporarily shuttered.

Many of the demographics that were not ordinarily associated with esports were showing up in polls and surveys, proving that esports and video games are for everyone regardless of age.

And as an interesting aside, while the professional sports leagues were halted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the bettors who enjoy placing their sports picks had nowhere to turn. But necessity is the mother of invention and the best online sportsbooks began offering odds on esports tournaments like League of Legends, DOTA 2, Fortnite, and many other popular titles. And wagering on these events became so popular that you can still find them being offered today despite the return of all of the professional sports leagues.

China: A Burgeoning Esports Frontier

Over the past three years, the number of esports users in China has skyrocketed from approximately 250 million to nearly 500 million! And the Chinese government is welcoming the ascension of this alternative sports industry by deeming esports as an official sport and expanding the business opportunities for those who want a hand in an industry that is showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

According to Christian Kurzydlowski, a writer for TCG, “China’s eSport market demographics are unique. The stereotypical eSport athlete or viewer – a nerdy indoorsy adolescent male – does not hold true. In China, according to a report from the China Money Network, 24.3% of eSports players are female, with 59% of those between the ages of 21 and 30 – much higher than the global eSports average of 16%. Parents also play an outsized role, making up 29% of viewership in the world’s largest eSports viewing market at 162.6 million. Meanwhile, close to 45% of Chinese viewers are between 25 and 34 years old, with 39% female viewership.

“In terms of titles, data suggests that League of Legends (LoL) is China’s most popular eSport game, with nearly 40% of users playing this game. LoL falls under the specific multiplayer online battle arena (“MOBA”) genre within eSports, a subgenre of strategy games in which two or more teams compete against each other within a confined digital “arena.” Yet, while MOBAs represent the most popular titles, first-person shooters claim the most playtime. Popular titles like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds (PUBG) and Overwatch are the current standout titles in the eSports scene in China.”

Tom Elsden, business director at sports digital consultancy and agency Mailman, has stated that now is the time to invest in what he believes is a formidable collaboration between the esports industry and the government of China.

“No government has publicly backed the growth of esports more than the Chinese. The link between sport and the state is closer than the rest of the world, as China has implemented a centralized approach for elite development. The government is pushing esports growth domestically as a source of national pride, and unlike soccer or other popular consumer sports, China has a dominance within esports. The state is eager to capitalize on this and success so far as a medium to craft nationalism.

“Esports towns and cities are popping up having been established by local authorities as they look to compete with each other, while mega-city Shanghai has genuine ambitions to become the esports capital of the world. Adding to this, Hainan launched a US$150 million development fund to transform the island through esports, and Hangzhou is putting together a 3.9 (million) meter square foot esports complex.

“China has called on its domestic tech giants, most notably Tencent and Alibaba, to further support and invest, with Tencent’s CEO committed to help Shanghai achieve its capital goals. And there’s been a big win for talent development as Chinese universities are launching new modules and majors in esports.”

Speaking of the Hangzhou esports town, it is a city within a bustling city of roughly 10 million people and in the near future, there will be more of these sprouting up around the vast expanse of the People’s Republic of China. Hangzhou will be hosting the 2022 Asian Games of which esports will play a significant role after a successful trial at the 2018 Asian games held in Jakarta. Titles such as League of Legends, StarCraft II, Clash Royale, Pro Evolution Soccer 2018, Hearthstone, and Arena of Valor all comprised the esports menu in ’18 and we suspect they will return with their more contemporary iterations and updates for the ’22 Asian Games.

China has become an esports destination and its massive audience will only take it to a higher level, never witnessed before. There will be plenty of opportunities for avant-garde technology to come to the fore, making esports even more compelling than it is now.

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