Chinese cities compete to become esports hub

Source:Global Times Published: 2019/8/7 17:18:40

Local businesses on the rise in the race to win tourism and prestige

Participants compete in esports games during the 17th China Digital Entertainment Expo in Shanghai on Monday. Photo: IC

Esports is flourishing as a business in China, and with fans and athletes investing and bringing in a sustainable amount of money, cities are now competing to become the Chinese esports hub, hoping to grab more market shares in the industry.

In the late 1990s, the World Cyber Games were established in South Korea and they introduced the concept of esports to mainstream consciousness. However, most people at the time did not regard esports as genuine sports, and most professional players were disregarded by family and society. At this time, video games were still considered "electronic heroin" in the eyes of older generations. 

Since then, esports has been growing in China. After the establishment of an esports club alliance and a live broadcast platform, the Chinese esports industry emerged under an influx of capital. In 2018, the Asian Games in Jakarta included esports as a formal project for the first time, and it is even expected to enter the Paris Olympics in 2024, becoming a competitive activity alongside table tennis and swimming.

Aspiring city 

Shanghai is one of the cities most ambitious to become the center of the esports industry in China. Back at the end of November 2018, Shanghai became the first city in China to adopt a registration system for esports athletes. On Saturday, the 2019 Global Esports Conference was held in Shanghai, and the Shanghai government also published a series of regulations regarding the construction of esports arenas and esports operations.

"Shanghai has already built a very good business environment for the esports industry. The regulations have enforced industrial confidence, something that is probably even more valuable than gold," Ying Shuling, CEO of Versus Programming Network, was quoted as saying in a report by 

Shanghai's advantage comes from its early entrance into the game, and from the big number of players in the city, Ying said. Other supporting institutions, including financial institutions and universities, have also attracted many players to Shanghai to pursue their dreams in esports. 

But Shanghai is not the only city eyeing the prize; Beijing is also ambitious to become the rule provider for the emerging industry. On July 11, Beijing established an esports committee under the Internet Society of China to oversee the development of the sector. It also aims to design industrial regulations and hold related competitions. 

Other provinces in China are also eager to be early to enter the market. Southeast China's Sichuan Province issued regulations on the registration of esports athletes shortly after Shanghai, in November 2018, closely followed by North China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, which published its rule for esports athletes' registration in December 2018. 

Apart from the rules on athletes' registration, cities and provinces are also aiming to roll out standards for esports products' hardware. For example, South China's Hainan Province decided to cooperate with Tencent Games. They are to establish a new ecosystem and direction for the industry, as well as build an "esports bay" in China. 

However, Shanghai still seems most likely to become the esports hub. According to statistics released by the research institution CNG, over 40 percent of current esports competitions are held in Shanghai, including industry giants such as the Tencent League of Legands Pro League, the King Pro League and the DOTA2 Asia Championships. Of the top 20 esports clubs in China, over half are headquartered in Shanghai, including Team WE, Invictus Gaming and Edward Gaming, according to

"People in the industry are more than willing to come to Shanghai because they believe there are opportunities here," Ying said, "and participating in esports is also recognized here as a legit business."

Fierce competition

Behind the competition among cities and provinces are the huge market and the even larger market potential of the esports industry. Since 2015, the esports sector in China has been growing. In 2017, the size of China's esports market reached 65.5 billion yuan ($9.28 billion), with its growth mainly coming from the influx of mobile esports games. 

Since 2015, the number of mobile esports games on the market has continued to expand. By 2017, it exceeded the number of PC esports games, reaching 30.3 billion yuan, according to a report by

In 2019, the global market for esports topped $35 billion. In China, the scale of the industry will exceed 100 billion yuan this year, not including the esports equipment market - the esports equipment market alone has reached 50 billion yuan.

For a market of this size, different cities have been taking part in fierce competition for the industries' top companies and talents. 

In July, Xi'an, capital city of Northwest China's Shaanxi Province, held the national contest for the World Cyber Games to bring more attention from esports enthusiasts to the city.

"Introducing top competition can attract a large number of enthusiasts to the city, and enhance the city's reputation in the industry," Zheng Duo, COO of VSPN said in a report by 

Apart from big cities, smaller cities in China are also eager to join the competition. Zhongxian, a small city in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality that is famous for citrus fruits and fermented tofu, is striving to make its name in the esports world as well.

In 2017, the city held a national competition in a new esports competition area. A participant later recalled the event as "surprising," particularly considering Zhongxian had been an obscure destination for most tourists, but that since then the competition "has become a breakthrough to push forward the city's economic development."

Now Zhongxian is a small city highlighted on the esports business map. He Erhong, the director of Zhongxian's data management department, said that esports has been enormously helpful in increasing the city's influence. 

"Esports opens a window for more people to know about the culture and charms of Zhongxian," He said. 

In 2017, only 5,000 people participated in Zhongxian's marathon, but in 2018, the number jumped to 10,000.

Beyond the competition to become the Chinese esports hub is the competition to attract young people, an industry insider said. The rise in consumption brought about by esports has created new business opportunities and bonded younger generations together. As consumption structure is being reshaped and upgraded, cities are looking for fresh ways to create new business and stimulate young people's consumption habits. 

Li Xiaofeng, who started playing esports in 1998, is now starting a business in its equipment sector called Taidu Technology Co.

"There is not yet a famous brand for esports equipment apart from some traditional old companies, and I think it's a market with immense business potential," Li was quoted as saying in a report. 

"We are developing esports computers, earphones, keyboards, and other equipment with Taidu," Li said.

The story is based on reports by, and
Newspaper headline: Cities compete to become esports hub

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