News Archive: April 27, 2020

April 21-27, 2020 | VOL 3.15

LEAGUES AND TOURNAMENTS

League of Legends (LoL) Reset for Worlds

Riot has decided to cancel the LoL Mid-Summer Invitational (MSI) and move the various regional LoL leagues directly into the Summer Split back on their original schedules, which had gotten out of sync due to COVID-19. Dropping the second biggest LoL competition of the year is a major change, but allows leagues to reset and focus on the World Championship (S10) in China in late 2020, the date of which remains TBD. ▶️MSI is one of the main events in the exclusive broadcasting package that Bilibili paid $113M USD / ¥800 RMB for in December last year – unclear if refund talks are in the works.

Riot also announced changes to the seeding for S10, increasing the number of seeds for the LPL (China) and LEC (Europe) each from 3 to 4 teams, in recognition of the LPL and LEC teams winning the last two championships. The move was greeted with excitement in China, where Riot remains determined to put on a world championship that outdoes all of its prior events.
LINKS: TEO, 懒熊体育

VSPN Takes Over PUBG Mobile Southeast Asia Production

TEO reports that it has put VSPN in charge of production of the PUBG MOBILE Pro League Southeast Asia, when the Summer Split starts on May 1. ▶️VSPN has long been Tencent's go-to production partner in China, and now Tencent is increasingly turning events over to it in Southeast Asia as well, helping VSPN expand its global footprint.
LINKS: TEO

Wolves Win China and ex-China FIFA Titles

The FIFA esports world was dominated by Wolverhampton Wanderers over the weekend, as it won the FIFA Online 4 Champions Cup in China, one day after winning the inaugural ePremier League invitational for FIFA 20. Both games were conducted online, but the FIFA 20 game was an exhibition game held for charity while the LAN-based FIFA 20 Global Series is suspended due to COVID-19 travel restrictions. ▶️China is the one region that officially competes in FIFA Online 4 instead of FIFA 20, giving it the unique ability to hold a full FIFA esports league tournament without travelling internationally.
LINKS: ECO氪体

Valorant Takes First Esports Steps

While Valorant technically remains in closed beta, Riot gave third party organizers the right to begin developing "community competitions" under a set of guidlines that preserve Riot's ability to organize an official league or tournament system.

▶️ While Valorant is a game clearly designed for esports, Riot is focusing first on experimentation and organic growth before investing in an official esports ecosystem. The preparation should put Riot in a good position to manage the public release and the China release, expected this summer.

LINKS: Riot

STREAMING / MEDIA

Baidu + Chushou?

Baidu is rumored to be pursuing an acquisition of Chushou TV, the fifth-largest game streaming platform in China, one month after entering into a strategic partnership giving Baidu access to Chushou's streaming stars while licensing Baidu's titles to Chushou TV. Chushou faces pressure from the other top platforms, all of which are backed by Tencent to various degrees. The combination would potentially give Chushou the support it needs to survive in the expensive business of content streaming, and create potential synergies with Baidu's iQiyi, one of the world's largest online video sites, which is interested in expanding into live streaming.

LINKS: 体育大生意, Yicai Global

CLUBS

Evil Geniuses Launches Weibo

Evil Geniuses became the latest team from North America to invest in building a fan base in China, launching a well-designed Weibo site with content targeted towards a Chinese audience.
 LINKS: Weibo

SPONSORSHIP & MARKETING

Bixin Makes Waves with Sponsorship and "Sparring Companion" White Paper

Bixin made headlines last week by adding Vici Gaming (VG) and Four Angry Men (4AM) to its growing stable of top tier Chinese esports organizations which also include RNG, FPX, and Invictus Gaming. It also released a “Sparring Companion White Paper” highlighting isolated 2019 usage data from its core business, an esports-oriented social network that facilitates online gaming with coaches, pro players, and various personalities for a fee (including, as of last week, the entire 4AM PUBG Mobile team). 

The “White Paper” is more of a promotional article than a study, but provides some interesting data points about Bixin's business in 2019 that shed light on its role in China's esports ecosystem:Total users for 2019 was ~27.7M, equivalent to roughly 4% of China’s ~640M total online gaming population, 67% of which were age 25 and underBixin boasts ~2.97M registered sparring companions, but only ~1.3M earned income from the platform. Of these, the average full time income was ¥7857 RMB, and part time was ¥2929 RMB. Bixin has separately stated that the highest earner receives $141,334 USD / ¥1M RMB per month. The most recognizable "sparring companion" for hire is (in?)famous fuerdai Wang Sicong, who will play Teamfight Tactics with you for ¥666 RMB per game – this was easily the data point receiving the most attentionThe biggest individual spend was $436,034 USD / ¥3,085,774 RMB. The biggest spender was a 22 year old from Shanghai who spent $212 USD / ¥1500 RMB per day on 12 different companions playing Game For Peace 《和平精英》All of the top games are esports games, the top two being the China-focused Honor of Kings 《王者荣耀》and Game for Peace, followed by League of Legends and PUBG.Bixin's article offered some insights, noting in particular that it is natural for the generation born after 1995 and 2000 to seek companionship online for gaming, or more poetically: "Loneliness is a language for young people all over the world." Earlier this year, Bixin’s CEO Lin Song mentioned that Bixin is counting on the young generation of esports enthusiasts to boost its userbase tenfold over the next 5 years. It’s also worth mentioning reports circulating last year of female gaming companions on a variety of platforms, including Bixin, providing online companionship beyond gaming, suggesting that for some esports may not be the only draw.

Video game coaching apps are rising in popularity around the world, largely due to the increased attention during COVID-19 lockdowns, but Bixin stands a breed apart, largely due to unique factors of the Chinese esports landscape: wide adoption of online gaming and deeper cultural penetration of esports. Government support is another important characteristic: as we noted in August last year (Vol 2.6), Bixin's app enjoys official support as the main platform selected by Shanghai Management Center of the China Communications Industry Association (CCIA) Esports Branch [中国通信工业协会电子竞技分会] to evaluate the skills of professional esports trainers and provide professional certification. CEO Lin Song has confirmed Bixin's larger goal is to become part of the infrastructure of esports, and contribute to the professionalization of esports development.
LINKS: TEOESIBixinRadii编程客栈Abacus NewsChina DailyBloomberg

ESPORTS ADJACENT

Major Increase in China's Q1 Video Game Revenue

Brawl Stars, a 3x3 online mobile game and currently one of the most popular mobile online games globally, has finally been licensed in China and will launch June 9. Tencent has 51.2% stake in Supercell, so a Brawl Stars esports scene in China can't be far behind.
LINKS: Pandaily

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