News Roundup: Jan 1, 2021 - A busy end to a singular year for China's esports industry

Vol. 3.39 | Jan 1, 2021

Happy New Year, Esports Enthusiasts!

I hope you had a great time celebrating the end of Annus Horribilis. Call me superstitious, but I wanted to completely close the books on 2020 before sending out my last news digest for the year.

And so ends Volume 3 of the China Esports Business News Digest! Over 39 issues we covered developments and trends in the core businesses (i.e. “Leagues & Tournaments” and “Club News”), the total public/private ecosystem (i.e., “Research and Data” and “The Ecology”), commercialization (“Media/Streaming” and “Brands & Marketing”), and influential events on esports’ horizon (“Beyond Esports”), hopefully providing actionable insights for those in or touching the industry. I won’t be doing a year in review, but if you are interested in tracking any of these trends over 2020, check out the archive; the above topics are all clearly identified in each issue.

For 2021/Vol 4, I will be trying out some new things. The first couple months may be a bit irregular, so bear with me. As always, thank you for your readership. I am sincerely grateful to everyone accompanying me on this journey, and for allowing me to share my passion for China and esports with you.

新年快乐! - John


Leagues & Tournaments

2022 Asian Games

League of Legends (LoL)

Honor of Kings [王者荣耀] (HOK)

QQ Speed [QQ飞车]

World of Warcraft (WoW)


Club News

The Ecology

  • The city of Shenzhen announced new policies and subsidies to develop the esports industry in the Nanshan District. Financial incentives include:

    • A ¥1M RMB bonus for each new game developed in Nanshan that has a major esports competition;

    • Up to ¥5M RMB for top clubs that establish home venues in Nanshan (with ¥1M bonuses for making the podium in league finals)

    • ¥3M RMB incentives for globally influential events

    • Up to ¥2M RMB for esports expos and similar activities

    • Rent subsidies for esports organizations

    The plan explicitly sets a goal of making Shenzhen’s Nanshan district the esports hub of the “Greater Bay Area” of Guangdong, Hong Kong, and Macao.

  • Also in a bid to create the Greater Bay Area’s esports hub, Guangzhou released a 10-year plan to build its Tianhe District into a world-class esports center. The goal is to build a 100B RMB local industry with an ecosystem based integrating event hosting, content production, entertainment experience, talent training and equipment manufacturing, and to host at least 3 international esports events before 2022.


Brands & Marketing

  • Ping An Bank [平安银行] became the title sponsor of Bilibili Gaming, now “BLG Ping An Bank Esports Club”. According to Lanxiong Sports, naming rights were not available as sponsorship assets in the LPL until TJ Sports instituted a rule change in late 2019. As part of the sponsorship, Ping An Bank has launched BLG-themed debit cards for its customers.

  • Zeros In On China’s Growing Esports Market. announced the launch of the JD Esports Game and Mobile Phone Industry Alliance, which will lean into its esports properties such as Jing Dong Gaming (JDG) to market products and services to gamers, and develop talent.

Beyond Esports

Recommended Reading

TEO’s Chen Hongyu’s thoughtful look ahead at 2021 for esports in China, focusing on:

  • The likelihood that COVID-19 will continue to significantly disrupt China’s esports industry: I agree that events will still largely remain offline, with live events reserved for big events, which will be interesting for all those “home venues” built in 2020. I am less sure about Hongyu’s prediction that overseas investment will slow; Tencent for instance already has a web of worldwide investments and exploring online events outside China (which will be the only kind of esports events outside China in 2021) could be low-hanging fruit.

  • The rising trend and potential of women in esports in China: I really hope Hongyu is right about this one, although so far the phenomenon seems mainly concentrated around HOK and its widespread cultural influence in China. However, this is an area where China is well ahead of other countries, and it is vital to the development of a healthy esports market.

  • The likelihood that China’s first crop of graduates in the first 4-year university esports degree will have a hard time finding jobs: I have mixed feelings about the argument here. On the one hand, there are some thoughtful programs being rolled out for Chinese higher education institutions focused on esports business management and production, and it’s too early to judge their impact. On the other hand, there have been too many vocational schools merely churning out streamers for some time, and the government has not sufficiently quantified its dramatic forecast of millions of job opportunities in esports for the next five years. Add to that the unknown impact of top-down initiatives that will affect the entire industry, like skills standardization for esports professionals, and the future is uncertain for job-seekers, but not necessarily bleak.

We’ll see! (my New Year’ Day motto)

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