Around 40,000 gaming fans attended the 2017 League of Legends World Championship final between two South Korean teams at Beijing’s Bird’s Nest stadium on Nov 4. [Photo provided to China Daily]
Lucrative competitive gaming sector taking China by storm
China is ushering in a golden era of e-sports, with industry revenue, prize money and viewership all skyrocketing to reshape the traditional sports entertainment landscape.
For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, the ongoing playoff for the King Pro League’s fall season provides a perfect snapshot of just how and why the gaming craze is sweeping the country.
The league, based on Tencent’s role-play fantasy mobile game King of Glory, kicked off its eight-club playoff in late November, with arenas sold out for every matchup.
Hours before the Nov 26 clash between the defending champion QGhappy team and Shanghai-based club JC, a huge crowd queued outside the venue waiting for admittance.
Inside, fans were rewarded with an electric atmosphere and a slickly produced show, with jumbotrons, subwoofers and a high-tech lighting system creating an overall effect akin to a live NBA game.
Thanks to the popularity of King of Glory, which has attracted over 200 million registered users since its launch in 2015, the KPL has eclipsed some of its traditional sporting rivals in terms of viewership.
Its 2017 spring season was viewed over 2.68 billion times on streaming platforms, more than nine times the total viewership for the 2016 season of soccer’s Chinese Super League.
Last month, Beijing’s iconic Bird’s Nest stadium witnessed hysteria levels not seen since the 2008 Olympics as 40,000 fans attended the final of the 2017 League of Legends World Championship, based on US developer Riot’s hit multiplayer online battle arena game.
“The LPL’s (League of Legends’ professional competition) ascent to massive popularity, as evidenced by its online viewership of 2.7 billion for just the first half of this year, has heralded a new era for the sports entertainment business in China,” said Mars Hou, a senior manager of Tencent Interactive Entertainment.
Years ago it would have been absurd to think that a videogame event could generate such interest levels and stir national pride, given the government’s once-critical stance on gaming’s influence on youth.
Students brave the cold and rain in Hangzhou during an online gaming competition in November last year. LIAN QUOQING/FOR CHINA DAILY
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