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Gaming glory a click away

By Shi Futian | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-09 10:08
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Another report, from market researcher Niko Partner, showed China's e-sports market topped $1.26 billion in 2017, while the total purse payouts at Chinese tournaments was $64 million-up from $51 million the previous year.

"Certainly, the development of e-sports will go beyond a lot of people's imagination," said China's four-time Olympic speed-skating champion Wang Meng, a hardcore e-sports fan. "No other sporting activity triggers the same chemistry. The future is bright for e-sports."

November's final of the League of Legends World Championship at Bird's Nest stadium in Beijing was one of the best indicators of the rise of e-sports. It marked the first time China has hosted the premier gaming tournament, and despite the nation not being represented in the grand final, 40,000 tickets-costing up to 1,280 yuan ($190)-sold out in minutes. Scalpers reportedly were reselling them for up to 13,000 yuan ($1,960).

"As the world's largest e-sports project, League of Legends, from its birth, has been promoting the development of global e-sports and has achieved very good results in recent years," said Sage Huang, general manager of the League of Legends product department.

Meanwhile, KPL has provided the blueprint for the success of domestic leagues. Based on King of Glory, which was developed here and features characters from Chinese history, the league is aiming to become the NBA of e-sports.

"In 2016, nobody knew if the KPL could go this far," said Zhang Yijia, KPL president and general manager of Tencent's mobile e-sports department. "But a year later, we have witnessed the growth of the KPL from zero.

"We've been studying the business models of traditional sports leagues and other internet companies. From the very beginning we have been aiming to build a professional league, and we have analyzed the operation model of the NBA and the English Premier League."

The KPL aims to become a completely professional operation and govern clubs with strict new rules and regulations, including player transfers and a salary gap.

Alisports, the sports arm of e-commerce behemoth Alibaba, has also jumped on the bandwagon after launching the Alisports World Electronic Sports Games in March 2016-touted as the world's highest paying e-sports series with 1,200 events planned across 15 Chinese cities and offering a total prize purse of $5.5 million.

In April 2017, Alisports announced a strategic partnership with the Olympic Council of Asia to jointly add e-sports as an official medal event to the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, where Alibaba has its headquarters.

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