Esports Around The World: China

Esports Around The World is a series of profiles outlining the esports ecosystem in various countries globally. The series ties into ESI’s international esports business event, which take place around the world.

The Esports Around The World series will profile major & minor esports nations across the globe.

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China, being one of the world’s largest economies, is also the world’s largest esports commercial market. During the last decade, China has cemented itself as one of the absolute leaders in both esports game development, publishing, and tournament organising. The country is home to world champions in a number of games, and some of the largest esports companies in the world.

China currently has the highest number of active esports players, and is number one in both esports tournament viewership and esports title game revenue. China recognised esports as a sport back in the early 2000’s, one of the first governments to do so.

The biggest facilitator of growth for China and its esports market is the explosion of mobile esports. In 2019 alone, there were more than 140,000 new hires in the chinese esports industry. Both PC titles, such as League of Legends, and mobile games, including Wild Rift, Honor of Kings, and China-localised PUBG Mobile port Peacekeeper Elite, are very popular in the country.

With all numbers available pointing to a staggering rate of growth, China is, by most metrics, deserving of the title of ‘most esportsy nation’. China is home to the world’s biggest gaming company, Tencent, which fully owns Riot Games and has significant stakes in a myriad of other esports title publishers. Tencent is central to the development of esports in China.

Lured by the size of its domestic esports market, a number of Western companies have dipped their toes into the ecosystem. Notable organisations such as G2 Esports — which topped Mailman’s 2022 China Digital Performance Index — tournament organisers such as BLAST, and even the Premier League and Wolves Esports have entered partnerships with Chinese leagues and brands.

Certain downsides are apparent, however, as the Chinese government has ushered in an unprecedented tightening of restrictions on video games in China. Since 2021, stringent restrictions (and enforcement) limit minors to one hour of online gaming time on Fridays, weekends and holidays only . This has had a knock-on effect on the country’s esports scene, restricting the talent pipeline and causing a drop in esports consumption by minors. However, other sanctions on the gaming industry— such as a freeze on approvals of new video game titles — have recently been lifted.

Government Recognition

China’s General Administration of Sports has included esports as an official sport in the country since 2003. This makes China one of the earliest adopters of esports on an official, government level. By early 2019, China recognised esports as an official profession within the Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security‘s Occupation Skill Testing Authority recommendations.

There have been almost 100 official government documents by central and local governments in China focused on regulating and discussing esports, according to an article in the International Journal of Esports. Of the 100, ten are made on a central level, the highest level of government in China.

Notable Tournaments & Leagues

As the world’s preeminent esports market, and due to the massive size of its esports audience, China and its major cities like Shanghai are mainstays for some of the biggest tournaments and tournament circuits in esports. It has played host to several League of Legends World Championships, arguably the most important date in the esports calendar, alongside other major tournaments in Dota 2 and especially mobile esports.

CrossFire Pro League P1 League
Dota2 Professional League Peacekeeper Elite Championship (PEC)
ePremier League Peacekeeper Elite League
King Pro League Esports Shanghai Masters
League of Legends Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) 2016 The International 2019 (TI9)
League of Legends World Championship 2020 Wild Rift League (WRL) China
ESI Washington DC May 2022
ESI’s Washington DC conference will focus on the growth of esports around the world.

Notable Esports Organisations

Note that this is a non-exhaustive list and exclusion does not signify an org is not notable.

Bilibili Gaming Newbee
Edward Gaming Talon esports
FunPlus Phoenix Vici Gaming
Invictus Gaming Weibo Gaming
LGD Gaming

National Associations / Federations

China does not have an esports association. The Chinese esports ecosystem is partially administered by the General Administration of Sport of China (GASC), though since 2018 also the National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), itself a part of the Ministry of Culture. However, neither of these bodies acts as an esports association.

While China does not have an ‘official’ domestic esports association, Tencent is a founding member of the Global Esports Federation (GEF), and China has influence in the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), which empowers the Asian Electronic Sports Federation (AESF).

Education Initiatives

Dozens of Chinese universities have esports major courses after the Ministry of Education in China worked to add esports and gaming into higher education and vocational training curriculums. In 2016, “esports and management” was added to the Ministry of Education’s list of permitted college majors.

Some universities, like the Communication University of China, offer Majors directly related to esports, and numerous vocational schools also offer esports degree programmes or electives.

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This is a preliminary country profile and will be augmented with additional information over time. If you have any suggestions or feedback for this profile, please get in touch at [email protected]

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