Founded in 2017, Bilibili Esports has become one of the most promising and prominent Chinese companies in esports. After acquiring a spot in the LPL in 2017 as its first move in esports, Bilibili Esports purchased a franchise in the Overwatch League in 2018 – establishing Hangzhou Spark. The huge success achieved by Bilibili Esports is has to be somewhat-attributed produced by its aim to integrate esports with traditional Chinese culture.
To better understand the approach of propagating Chinese culture through esports, we spoke to Youyou Chen, President of Bilibili Esports.
Esports Insider: How did Bilibili plan to enter esports?
Youyou Chen: As one of the largest online youth communities in China, the huge demographic laid the foundation for our development in the esports industry. With the rapid development of China’s live streaming industry in 2017 and the emergence of numerous esports content on the Bilibili website, we found that the viewership of esports contents occupied a very high proportion of the total viewership. Therefore, we decided to independently operate our esports sector in depth and we officially entered esports in 2017 by purchasing an LPL spot as the first step to develop our esports business.
ESI: Why did Bilibili Esports purchase the Overwatch League spot as its first step to enter global esports market?
YC: The purchase of the LPL spot is mainly focused on the domestic esports market, while the purchase of OWL spot is more biased towards the global esports market. Although Overwatch does not have a large demographic in China, OWL completely corresponds to our development strategy to position ourselves with the world’s top esports league. Secondly, we also analyzed Overwatch content from Bilibili’s website and we believed Overwatch would develop better in the future. So, we invested a lot to purchase the spot and formally adopted LoL and OW as key esports titles for developing our esports business.
“We also believe that esports will be the culture for the next generation.”
ESI: What is your future plan for the overseas expansion?
YC: While operating the club, Bilibili Esports also commits to hosting and organising esports events. Relying on the Bilibili website, we can popularize event content to young Chinese people while organising the event. Due to the speciality of the Chinese esports market, it is considerably difficult for overseas esports organisations to launch projects in China. Also, cultural differences and communication barriers may cause more unpredicted problems. Therefore, we want to help overseas esports organisations to successfully launch esports projects in China and provide them with localized services. In addition, we can also utilise our platform to promote their brands. For overseas clients, we can provide them with a lot of convenience for business in China. Currently, we are constantly promoting this service both domestically and overseas.
ESI: How does Bilibili Esports connect with the young Chinese demographic?
YC: In fact, esports culture is the culture for young people. Esports is not strange to the young Chinese demographic. In my opinion, esports is actually a new commercial area with many young people’s ideas of different ages. We also believe that esports will be the culture for the next generation. Therefore, we want to attach Chinese traditional culture or Chinese urban culture, and even Chinese moral culture, to esports to create a unique culture.
Presently, we have received a lot of praise by drawing unique posters to announce fixtures. The reason is that people always can find culture in our posters. According to our parent company’s philosophy inheritance and creation, we incorporate the positive energy and interesting culture that we really want to convey to young people into the poster. Now our LPL BLG poster has become a new meta in the esports community, and our Hangzhou Spark poster is also actively exploring the connection with urban culture.
In my opinion, our posters are also a kind of cultural transmission. Although they are different from textbooks, our posters also help young people understand Chinese geography and history. Therefore, I believe that actually esports itself is one derivative of culture. We know winning tournaments is the primary goal for esports players and clubs, but esports competition also includes a process of establishing esports cultures. In other words, in the operation of the club, we also focus on creating an esports culture and we will continue to attach a more interesting and creative culture within esports.
“We take full advantage of esports events to show the local traditional culture to the global esports fan base.”
ESI: How do you plan to propagate traditional Chinese culture to the world through esports?
YC: This is actually the ultimate aim that we have been pursuing for so many years. For the Western esports community, Hangzhou may not be as famous as Shanghai and Beijing, but by connecting the trailer with team members, we showcased Hangzhou’s tea, West Lake, and many landscapes to global esports fans. Western esports fans realised that China has such an amazing city. In my opinion, the trailer itself is actually propagating the Chinese culture to the world, and this approach is obviously much more acceptable for esports fans.
Another example, we announced two OWL home venues for Hangzhou Spark. Besides Hangzhou, there is also a city called Wuzhen. Wuzhen is the city where we cooperated with Blizzard to host the Overwatch Year-End Ceremony. We take full advantage of esports events to show the local traditional culture to the global esports fan base.
Meanwhile, we have integrated esports with local dramas and held esports events in the drama theatre. Many young Chinese esports audiences have noticed this small town with traditional Chinese culture. Although our venue is not the biggest one, we are always dedicated to promoting the player experience and propagating Chinese culture. We always follow our principle that is producing esports contents means propagating culture.
Though not officially announced at the time of writing, Bilibili is reported to have acquired the Chinese broadcast rights for the next three years of the League of Legends World Championship. After submitting a winning bid, the company will reportedly pay 800 million yuan (£87.2 million) for the exclusive rights.