China’s e-sports industry – big in 2016, huge in 2017, says IDC

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China’s e-sports games revenues are expected to exceed RMB50 billion (around $7.3 billion) for 2016, up more than 50% from 2015 thanks to the increasing popularity of tournaments as more organizers and players jump on the bandwagon, according to IDC’s 2016 China E-sports Industry Review and Outlook.

China’s e-sports industry became much more professional in the past year and its deeper integration with the film and other entertainment industries accelerated, said Johnny Zhou, an analyst with IDC China.

“In 2016, e-sports in China matured and diversified,” said Zhou. “In 2017, China’s e-sports industry is expected to usher in an era of glory. However, competition is also set to intensify.”

IDC expects total prize bonus offered in global tournaments to reach RMB560 million (around $81.3 million) in 2016, with RMB250 million ($36.3 million) coming from open competitions held in China, making China one of the world’s top organizers of e-sports tournaments. The report also shows that China currently has more than 500 professional teams in competing in such tournaments, with well over 10,000 amateur teams registering for online tournaments.

E-sports go pro

There are now nearly 2,000 professional e-sports tournament planning and organizing institutions in China, including government agencies such as the Information Center of the General Administration of Sport, the local government of Yinchuan in northwest China’s Ningxia, and Yiwu in eastern China’s Zhejiang Province.

Meanwhile, e-sports clubs have also become more professional and standardized in their operations and player management. In 2016, professional Chinese clubs continued to learn from their South Korean peers by drawing upon the traditional sports club model to develop operational models that better suit the e-sports industry environment in China. Nine clubs formed the China CS:GO Alliance in 2016, thus laid a solid foundation for future development in China. At the 2016 season of the China DOTA2 Professional League held in May, a player registration system was introduced for the first time. The establishment of a registration management system along with a system to track tournament points has further standardized and guided the development of tournaments in China, preventing excessive commercialization of games while protecting fans’ right to participation.

In a bid to train more professionals for the emerging industry, China’s Ministry of Education announced that it would add 13 new college curriculums such as e-sports games and management in 2017.

E-sports are going mobile too

2016 was definitely the year mobile e-sports gained traction in China. Mobile e-sports revenue is expected to hit RMB17.6 billion ($2.6 billion) in 2016, almost tripling from last year’s RMB6 billion (around $870 million) in 2015. Enthusiastically promoted by game vendors including Tencent and Hero Entertainment, as well as mobile phone makers such as Huawei, mobile e-sports games can now be found in all leading tournaments in China.

Industry concerns about the poor operability and short lifespan of mobile e-sports games also eased over the year. All leading e-sports clubs have started to establish mobile teams and take part in tournaments.

Chinese companies have also stepped up their inroads in the mobile gaming industry and went on a shopping spree in 2016. Notable deals include Tencent’s acquisition of Finnish mobile game developer Supercell, the maker of the popular Clash of Clans game, and Chinese mobile ad platform Mobvista’s purchase of US-based NativeX, a startup that makes advertising for mobile games and apps. Mobile gaming revenue in China reached RMB81.9 billion ($11.9 billion) in 2016, up from last year’s RMB51.5 billion ($7.5 billion) and accounting for nearly half of the total gaming revenue of RMB165.6 billion ($24 billion), according to IDC’s 2016 Worldwide Gaming report.

 Pan entertainment and livestreaming

Ties between the e-sports industry and traditional entertainment programs have also strengthened. In November, a Chinese live video streaming platform invited a number of popular Korean stars to take part in the China-South Korea Superstar Tournament. In addition to attracting an audience of 11 million, the event offered a new perspective one-sports pan entertainment. E-sports involvement in pan entertainment is expected to deepen in the foreseeable future.

China’s fast-growing live broadcasting industry is serving as a catalyst to the booming e-sports industry. However, irregularities exist in China’s live broadcasting platforms. As a result, Chinese government has tightened supervisions on live broadcasting content as part of its efforts to standardize the commercialization activities in the live broadcasting industry.

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