Hello Esports Enthusiasts!
This week I had the honor of joining a really smart panel hosted by the Asia Society of Southern California, called “Exploring the Differences Between How the East & West Approach Esports.” If you missed it, here is a link to the VOD on Facebook.
If you’re new here, Welcome! My goal is to provide a quick roundup of the week’s news, with links to explore further if you’d like. Sometimes, like this week, there is a lot cover, so I am breaking off a few sections (media, marketing, and local development) that subscribers will see in their inboxes after the weekend.
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League & Tournament News
LPL (China’s pro LoL league)
TJ Sports Partners With Chengdu Media Group to Co-Host 2020 LPL All-Star in Chengdu. The ever-growing annual gala will run from December 10-12 at VSPN’s venue at the Sino-Ocean Taikoo Li [成都远洋太古里] shopping district. The first day is designated “Charity Day”, centered on the “LPL Cares” initiative, followed by a “Glory Day” featuring LoL legends, and finally a “Duel Day”. The LPL Cares brand began in early 2019 with two broad goals: 1) public welfare, for example partnering with the One Foundation [壹基金] for child care and development, and 2) building model character in the LPL pro ranks, or “making players better people”, given their cultural influence.
In related news: Suning accused of buying votes for All-Star 2020. The suspicion revolves around the apparent speed of voting, and the lack of household names in SG’s ranks. Of course, becoming the underdog darling of the LPL by beating TES and JDG may have raised SG’s popularity level.
The final stage of the LoL segment of the 2020 National Electronic Sports Tournament (NEST), hosted by the General Administration of Sport of China, will take place this weekend before a live audience in Hangzhou, at the Hangzhou International Expo Hall, and will be broadcast on Huya.
The China Dota2 Professional Association (CDA), the pro league formed by Chinese Dota2 teams in response to the closure of international Dota2 events this year, has partnered with Fuming Wenhe to host a fall tournament, expressly citing the continued irregularity of the official tournament circuit run by Perfect World and other Valve licensees. Indeed, TEO reported that none of the major Chinese Dota2 teams agreed to join the second season of Perfect World Dota 2 League, which was to begin on November 18, due to “communication issues” with the Dota2 publisher, and perhaps more importantly, lingering frustration with Perfect World for its lack of action in a Newbee match-fixing scandal earlier this year.
Peacekeeper Elite [和平精英] / PUBG Mobile
Peacekeeper Elite (a/k/a Game For Peace) held the second international Peacekeeper Elite Championship (PEC) before a live crowd at Shanghai Oriental Sports Center, with China’s NV-XQF defending its PEC 2019 title, and Chinese teams RNG and 4AM taking second and third place. Of the 15 teams competing, 4 were China’s top Peacekeeper Elite League (PEL) teams, and 11 were international invites, including strong PUBG clubs like Unicorns of Love, NaVi, and Tempo Storm (which placed 4th).
A look inside PEC from Nico Partners Senior Analyst Daniel Ahmad (the entire thread is fantastic):
PE has had a wild journey in 2020, becoming the highest-grossing title in the world in May 2020, and now boasting a robust esports ecosystem with three regular seasons and two international tournaments less than two years after its launch as a localized version of PUBG Mobile. Tencent topped this off at PEC by announcing that it will increase its investment in PE esports in 2021 to $30.4M USD/¥200M RMB, and that the global championship “G-League” in 2021 will feature a $2M/¥13.1M RMB USD prize pool.
In related news, PUBG Corporation (a South Korean developer majority owned by Tencent) is planning to relaunch a localized version of PUBG Mobile game in India that sounds strikingly similar to PE, an elegant but surprising solution given that PUBG Mobile was banned there due to a political clash with China.
The second IEM:Beijing-Haidian, part of the ESL Pro Tour, is underway online instead of in Beijng, which is probably for the best since FaZe Clan’s Marcelo David [ID: coldzera] is playing while battling COVID-19. Catch all the action at a safe distance here.
EA partnered with Bilibili on FIFA Online 4, holding the “EA Champion Cup Autumn China-South Korea” in Suzhou from November 10-15, with South Korea’s Crazy Win taking the championship, and China’s Luneng Taishan SC and Weibo Wolves (affiliated with Wolverhampton) taking second and third.
Honor of Kings [王者荣耀]
In KPL’s off-season, Tencent, Huomao, and VSPN launched an Esports Training Camp for professional female players of HOK. An estimated 48% of mobile gamers in China are female.
The open beta of Wild Rift, Riot’s mobile version of LoL, is only available in a few Asian countries, but it is so highly anticipated in China that Riot took steps to prevent VPN access to the open beta, and a famous former coach of Team WE announced that two Wild Rift esports teams have been formed: Team Ice (TI) and Team Fire (TF). That’s initiative!
LoL Esports clubs’ front offices around the world are humming with deal activity now that the off-season has begun:
According to Sports Money, Rogue Warriors is asking $24.3M USD / ¥160M RMB for its seat in the LPL, and may have found a buyer in Taiwan’s ahq Esports. ahq competes in the PCS, and is hoping to better its chances of making Worlds. Wuhan-based eStar is also rumored to be shopping its LPL seat, for an even higher price, and may have found a buyer in Taiwan’s J Team. These figures would be more than double the going rates for LPL seats in past years, and more than double the buy-in for a seat in the LCK, so … I’ll believe it when I see it.
Chinese Dota2 team 4AM.Elephant is now just “Elephant”, after the partnership between 4AM and MCN Little Elephant [小象互娱] broke up over a ¥1.5M RMB transfer fee owed to Vici Gaming (VG) for the transfer of star player Zhang Chengjun [ID: Eurus]. Multiple sources uniformly describe the situation as a “farce” [闹剧].
Chinese teams are attracting interest as sources of talent. Los Angeles-based TSM is reportedly in complicated trade talks for SG’s Hu Shuo-Jie [ID: Swordart], a Taiwanese player formerly with Taiwan’s Flash Wolves. This morning, Guangzhou Charge COO Eddy Meng took to Twitter to offer tips to western clubs interested in acquiring talent from China.
Meanwhile, Vici Gaming’s (VG) Lu Jue [ID: Leyan] was handed stiff penalties by TJ Sports, the operator of LPL esports, for exploiting an LoL bug in a new patch to gain an advantage in off-season games. The same behavior might not result in a ban for amateur players, but TJ Sports and Riot apparently wanted to make a statement that pros are held to a higher standard.
Data & Research
NewZoo updated its Global Games Revenues estimate, forecasting 19.6% growth to $174.9B USD for 2020. China and the U.S. are the two largest markets by a significant amount, at $44B USD and $41.3B USD, respectively. Meanshile, NewZoo recently revised downward its estimate of global esports revenues for 2020 from $973.9M USD to $950.3M USD, due primarily to event cancellations.
Next Issue: Local Focus, Brands & Marketing, and Media/Streaming
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