Esports in China: More than just a hobby

China’s economic development has led to a strong focus on digitalization and new technologies, positioning the country to become a global leader in these fields.

With the help of specialized companies in AI, VR, and other cutting-edge technologies, China has emerged as a leader in several industries, including the promising esports industry.

Supported by local industrial policies and innovations like 5G technology, the esports industry in China is poised for rapid growth in the coming years.

It’s important to note that esports in China is no longer just a hobby, but a legitimate profession with significant opportunities for those who pursue it.

This article will show you the impact of esports in China, and we will give you some tips and advice on how to conquer the Chinese esports market.

What is esports?

Esports (also known as electronic sports) is a kind of competition based on video games that can be played on consoles and computers, using a local network or an internet connexion. It became popular since big companies have organized events reuniting esports gamers.

During these events, the public can watch multiplayer video game competitions with professional players playing as individuals or as a team often with prize money or other rewards at stake.

Some of them are even considered celebrities in the esports industry, with thousands of fans encouraging them during these events.

It is also important to underline the fact esports are more accessible than before thanks to new technologies and live streaming that have greatly contributed to its influence among young players.

Esports for professionals in China

China is now the largest esports market in the world, with millions of fans and players. Many professional esports players in China have gained celebrity status, with lucrative sponsorships and endorsement deals.

While video games are designed for all kinds of players, many esports games are specially designed to be played professionally.

For example, developers can decide to include dedicated esports features in their games or even adapt them to high-level competitions.

Moreover, you have to know that China is amongst the few countries to authorize licensed professional esports players and recognize it as a real profession.

Esports in China is supported by the government, which recognizes it as an official sport. This has led to the establishment of esports academies and training centers, where young players can hone their skills and compete at the highest levels.

One of the most popular esports games in China is League of Legends, with many professional teams and players competing in national and international tournaments. Other popular games include Dota 2, Overwatch, and PUBG.

Esports for spectators and amateurs in China

(© Forbes)

Because these games are mainly created for demonstrations during esports tournaments, companies had to find a way to include spectators as well, in order for them to be engaged in the game.

To do so, some companies have also included some observing features, especially for spectators in games like StarCraft, League of Legends, and Call of Duty. 

Overview of the esports industry in China

In recent years, China became the world’s largest esports market. While many people would say that esports is just a childish hobby, esports is in fact part of China’s policy in terms of innovations.

Since 2003, esports has even been recognized as an official sport by China’s General Administration of Sports.

The esports industry is the perfect illustration of China’s capacity to create a unique experience thanks to new technologies and electronic games.

Esports: A Very Lucrative Industry in China

If you thought that video games were just a hobby, you might change your mind according to the numbers of the Chinese esports market. In fact, the esports industry is a real business worth billions of yuans in China.

The e-sport market is not even at its peak yet, revenue is projected to reach US$445.20m in 2023

With more than 665 million players (twice the population of the U.S) who spend over 278 billion yuan in video games, China boasts the world’s most lucrative gaming market.

This phenomenon can be explained by the growth of Chinese consumers’ purchasing power over the years, as well as Chinese giants’ investments that have spurred game entertainment. 

Total number of game users in China from 2012 to 2022(in millions)

Therefore, Asian countries such as South Korea and China, are the fastest-growing markets in the world for eSports as these two countries have authorized licensed professional players since 2000.

The esports industry is not only lucrative for big companies, but also for professional players thanks to tournaments offering a prize pool of over a dozen million U.S. dollars.

Thus, many professional Chinese players earn millions of yuan per month thanks to esports tournaments and sponsors.

The esports sector has both a sporting and a cultural dimension. It has multiple links with the sports, technological, social, and psychological sectors.

Moreover, it is also a powerful tool for China’s economy. In December 2020, esports was listed as one of the official events of the 2022 Asian Games to be held in Hangzhou, and esports is on its way to be a discipline at the Olympic Games.

Esports players in China

Although players come from all over the world, China is one of the countries which is the most interested in esports.

China was the first to develop a stadium entirely dedicated to esports: the Zhongxian Stadium in Chongqing which has more than 7000 seats.

The esports industry is going even further with several schools of e-sport across the country.

Following the growth in popularity of the gaming industry, the number of female players has been increasing over the years.

In 2020, there were around 390 million female gamers in China, showing a gradual increase in the recent few years. Over half of them played multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA).

Who are the most popular professional esports players in China?

Leading eSports professional players in China as of February 2023(in million U.S. dollars)

As of 2023, Ame, also known as Wang Chunyu, was the highest-earning Chinese eSports player. It is estimated that he earned almost 3.91 million U.S. dollars during his eSports gaming career.

Xu Linsen took second place with 2.9 million U.S. dollars, just before Wang Chunyu and Zhang Yiping.

Most of these esports gamers were playing Dota 2, a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) video game.

Leading eSports female professional players in China as of February 2023 (in U.S. dollars)

As of 2023, Li Xiao Meng, also known as Liooon, was the highest-earning female eSports player in China and ranked second in the world. It is estimated that the Hearthstone player earned about 238,010 U.S. dollars in just 7 esports tournaments.

The most common video games genres of esports in China & the World

(© League of Legends)

Esport is mostly used in multiplayer online battle arenas (MOBA), fighting and card games, first-person shooter (FPS), real-time strategy (RTS) games, battle royale, etc.

To give you a few examples of the most popular esports franchises, League of Legends, Counter-Strike, Street Fighter, Starcraft.

The Chinese esports phenomenon

(© Tencent / Universal)

Following the popularity of the esports industry, Tencent and Beijing Universal Resort partnered for the 2022 seasonal event. Tencent’s Honor of Kings, Peacekeeper Elite, QQ Speed, and card game Doudizhu, as well as several other games, will be officially added to the Beijing Universal Resort event. 

In the near future, we will see cultural elements of esports in the diverse entertainment scenarios of the resort. We believe that this collaboration can create emotion that extends from online to offline and a richer and more immersive customer experience,”

said Xiaoyi Ma, Senior Vice President of Tencent.

This collaboration is part of the esports phenomenon, with major actors in the new technologies industries harvesting this promising market.

To put it in a nutshell, esports is much more than just a hobby for some people as it can be a way to earn money and support its family: 

How to Promote Your Esports Company in China?

The esports market is therefore very profitable for brands selling goods to “gamers”. For example, the Swiss company Logitech has released the range “Logitech G” including gaming accessories and China was one of its biggest audience.

After that, the brand seized the opportunity of sponsoring professional esports teams, which allows them at the same time to increase their sales, as fans wanted to buy the same equipment as their idols.

As you have seen, the esports industry is full of opportunities for foreign brands that are ready to enter the competition in China.

However, you should be aware that the Chinese market is really different than anywhere else in the world. Thus, you will need to plan your strategy beforehand according to the Chinese market and Chinese consumers’ tastes.

Creating a WeChat Account

As a must-have in China, you will need to have a verified WeChat account in order to promote your brand in China.

Social media

If you want to reach a wide audience, you will need to have an online reputation, as well as use social media to promote your brand and events. If you want more information about the best social media for your brand, you can contact us directly.

Partner with KOLs

Key Opinion Leaders are influencers that have a large community of followers. The gamer community will follow their news.

That’s why, making partnerships and sponsorships with this type of influencer is a big step because your brand will gain strong visibility.

In addition, Chinese people have great difficulty trusting a brand without having opinions or recommendations from those around them. A product used by their favorite gamer is therefore much more attractive than another.

Case study

In recent years, China has emerged as a major player in the world of esports. One notable case study is the success of the League of Legends Pro League (LPL) in China.

The LPL is a professional League of Legends league in China that was established in 2013. Since then, it has grown rapidly and now boasts 17 teams and a large fan base. The league is organized by Tencent, a Chinese multinational conglomerate that is one of the largest gaming companies in the world.

One of the reasons for the success of the LPL is the popularity of League of Legends in China. The game has a massive following in the country, with millions of players and fans. This has helped to create a strong fan base for the LPL, with fans tuning in to watch matches both online and in person.

Another factor in the success of the LPL is the investment that Tencent has made in the league. The company has invested heavily in infrastructure, including building state-of-the-art studios and facilities for the teams. This has helped to create a professional and polished product that is attractive to fans and sponsors alike.

The LPL has also been successful in attracting top talent from around the world. Many of the best players in the game now play in the league, including players from Korea and Europe. This has helped to raise the profile of the league and make it more competitive.

Overall, the success of the LPL in China is a testament to the growing popularity of esports in the country and the investment that companies like Tencent are making in the industry.

We are your local partner in China!

Esports has become a massive industry in China, with a rapidly growing fanbase and a thriving competitive scene.

The Chinese government has recognized the potential of esports and has been actively supporting its development, with the establishment of esports parks and the inclusion of esports as a medal event in the 2022 Asian Games.

Major Chinese companies have also invested heavily in esports, with Tencent being a major player in the industry.

However, there are also concerns about the negative impact of esports on young people, and the need for regulation and responsible development of the industry.

Overall, esports in China is a dynamic and exciting field with a lot of potential for growth and innovation.

Contact GMA

We are a China-based marketing agency offering cost-effective solutions to foreign brands interested in tapping into the Chinese market. Our team of Chinese and foreign experts has the experience and know-how needed to succeed in this lucrative, yet complicated market.

Gentlemen Marketing Agency offers many digital marketing and e-commerce solutions, such as web design, e-commerce and social media marketing strategies, localization, market research, KOL marketing, and more.

Don’t hesitate to leave us a comment or contact us, so that we can schedule a free consultation with one of our experts, that will learn about your brand and present you the best solutions for your China market strategy.

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