Let the Games Be­gin

Gam­ing in China has gone from a ca­sual pas­time to a multi-bil­lion-dol­lar in­dus­try By Hou Weili

Beijing Review - - Nation -

Tan Jun can still feel the adrenalin rush he ex­pe­ri­enced in Novem­ber while watch­ing the world’s premier com­pet­i­tive gam­ing event at the 2017 League of Leg­ends World Cham­pi­onship (LLWC). As an in­di­ca­tion of the rock­et­ing pop­u­lar­ity of gam­ing, the grand-scale, full-house event took place in Bei­jing’s iconic Na­tional Sta­dium, dubbed the Bird’s Nest, which is usu­ally re­served for ma­jor mu­sic con­certs and in­ter­na­tional sport­ing events.

“The price of a sin­gle ticket for the fi­nal game fetched an amaz­ing 6,666 yuan ($1,057), but still they were sold out,” Tan, 30, who runs an es­ports players’ team, told Bei­jing Re­view.

Held in China for the first time since the LLWC es­ports event was launched in 2010, the cham­pi­onship is re­garded as a mile­stone in terms of pub­lic and com­mer­cial recog­ni­tion of com­pet­i­tive gam­ing as a sport in China. Ac­cord­ing to the world’s lead­ing gam­ing mar­ket re­search and pre­dic­tive an­a­lyt­ics firm, New­zoo, based in the Nether­lands, the 2017 LLWC was the most watched event on Twitch, a U.S.-head­quar­tered live stream­ing video plat­form fo­cused on video gam­ing, gen­er­at­ing $5.5 mil­lion in ticket sales. In China 10 years ago, the es­ports business was bleak due to lack of spon­sor­ship and lim­ited aware­ness. In 2011, Wang Si­cong, the only son of Chi­nese real es­tate ty­coon, Wang Jian­lin, opened a lot of doors for the sec­tor with his rep­u­ta­tion and money.

In Au­gust 2017, Wang pledged to in­te­grate the es­ports in­dus­try on his Weibo ac­count, the Chi­nese equiv­a­lent of Twit­ter. He in­vested heav­ily in the sec­tor, buy­ing a dy­ing team for about $6 mil­lion and re­nam­ing it In­vic­tus Gam­ing or iG. In 2012, iG won first place in the In­ter­na­tional Dota2 Cham­pi­onships in Seat­tle, claim­ing the prize money of $1 mil­lion.

Wang ex­panded his es­ports in­ter­ests to

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