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Online Chinese dramas bank on esports themes to attract young consumers

By Ouyang Shijia | China Daily | Updated: 2020-01-03 09:30
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A group of professional esports gamers interact with visitors during an animation and video game exhibition in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province. [Photo by Li Zhong/For China Daily]

Given the growing number of tech-savvy young gamers, online Chinese drama series are actively embracing esports themes because they see it as a new big hit in the market.

Generating more than 3 billion clicks on the Tencent Video platform, the esports themed series The King's Avatar has become one of the most viewed online dramas, gaining a huge following among young audiences.

Adapted from the hit novel of the same title, The King's Avatar tells the story of a top-level professional esports player, Ye Xiu, who has been forced to retire from the team and then rise again with a new team to win back lost glory.

Notably, the popular online drama for the first time features pure esports related plots instead of romantic themes.

"When I finished the first volume of the The King's Avatar novels, I was deeply impressed by the sportsmanship and the spirit of teamwork shown by the characters engaged in the esports," said Yang Xiaopei, the drama's chief producer and vice-president of Shanghai-based studio Linmon Pictures.

"I'm really interested in such a new theme, which allows me to build brand-new characters and innovation in the way to build up scenes in the drama."

Yang added the drama caters particularly to younger generations born in the 1980s and 1990s, who are in some degree enthusiastic esports fans.

"In fact, we were making something that had no reference before," Yang said. "The story mainly focuses on esports plots and highlights teamwork, friendship, brotherhood as well as sportsmanship. The difficulty lies in the connection of the online virtual world and the offline real world. To make a good esports story, we need to combine refined management and top technologies."

To offer the audience immersive experiences, the new drama has used a wide range of world-leading technologies, including motion capture, face capture and unreal engine real-time rendering, which are commonly used in movies like 'The Jungle Book' and 'Rise of the Planet of the Apes.'

Those technologies help build up a complete world outlook well stocked with virtual and real life stories. Yang said she hopes more audiences will have a better understanding of esports through the new series.

"Esports actually combines gaming and competitive sports and has created many jobs chances as the sector has been upgrading in recent years," Yang added.

"With the rising government support, esports is booming in China, generating a series of new businesses. We do see the huge potential in this emerging sector. More efforts are needed to add more innovation to related entertainment products and offer audiences better experiences."

Li Yiyang, an analyst at consulting firm iResearch, said esports have already become a red hot field in terms of market size and popularity.

In fact, Chinese gamers' rising enthusiasm has created a huge market worth 233 billion yuan ($33 billion) in 2019, up 8.7 percent on a yearly basis, a report released by Chinese gaming database Gamma Data Corp said.

Revenues generated from the esports industry jumped 16.2 percent to 96.96 billion yuan in 2019, growing faster than the overall gaming sector, the report added.

"With young gamers' growing purchasing power, they have already become the key driving force to drive esports-related consumption, and they are willing to pay for beloved stuff," Li said. "Looking ahead, the future esports industry will be able to boost the development of various sectors, such as the esports themed online dramas and other derivative products."

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