Each month, sports digital agency Mailman shares the biggest industry news and insights from China’s esports scene, along with analysis on why it matters.
In October in China, Dota 2 and League of Legends fans experienced one of the most disappointing times in esports history. The Chinese Dota 2 team Team Aster and League of Legends team Jingdong Gaming lost in the semi-finals of Dota 2’s The International (TI11) and League of Legends World Championship (Worlds 2022), respectively.
Eventually, South Korean underdog DRX defeated T1 Entertainment & Sports at the Worlds 2022, making the best Cinderella story in League of Legends history.
It was also the first time that no Chinese team featured at the Worlds Final since 2017. London-based Dota 2 team Tundra Esports conquered the TI11 Finals, taking home more than $8.5m (~£7.2m) of a $19m (~£16m) total prize pool. Tundra Esports recently launched its social media account on China’s leading platform Weibo, gaining over 48,000 followers.
From a business and commercial perspective, there were still some positive partnerships and developments in China esports during October.
Nike signs Jian ‘Uzi’ Zihao as its first official esports athlete
Global sportswear brand Nike made a significant announcement in China, signing Chinese esports icon Jian ‘Uzi’ Zihao as Nike’s first esports athlete worldwide. Zihao is the most recognised esports player in China, and has collaborated with Nike multiple times for offline campaigns, commercials, and documentary recordings.
Considering it’s the biggest sportswear brand in the world, Nike has been extremely cautious about signing esports athletes. The long relationship between Zihao and Nike, and China’s colossal esports and Generation Z market behind Zihao will be the main reasons that Nike signed the deal with him. We congratulate Zihao that he can stand alongside Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and Cristiano Ronaldo, who Nike also signed. We expect to see more collaborations between Zihao and Nike or co-branded products.
Augmented Reality glasses Nreal sponsors PSG.LGD
Chinese Dota 2 team PSG.LGD signed a sponsorship deal with Beijing-based augmented reality glasses brand Nreal during Dota 2’s prestigious TI11. The Nreal logo will be featured on the team jerseys after TI11.
Though PSG.LGD ended its TI journey in the fourth round of the lower bracket, it reached 5-6th place and claimed more than $660,000 (~£561,000) in prize money. It was the first time that we saw an AR glasses brand enter the Chinese esports scene. With the concept of the metaverse rising, the valuation of AR glasses companies is increasing rapidly. Behind the sponsorship, we are excited to see more potential collaborations between esports and AR glasses.
Gen.G Esports establishes Honor of Kings division
South Korean esports organisation Gen.G Esports signed a partnership deal with Honor of Kings developer Tencent’s TiMi Studios Group, becoming its official partner for the Honor of Kings international market. Gen.G will set up an Honor of Kings team to compete in the Honor of Kings global event in December, the $10m (~£8.5m) Honor of Kings International Championship (KIC).
KIC is the biggest prize money mobile esports event in history, and Gen.G’s ambitions in Honor of Kings do not just focus on the KIC. Honor of Kings has become the official medal title of the 19th Hangzhou Asian Games in 2023, and Gen.G could use this opportunity to prepare the national Honor of Kings team for South Korea. Interestingly, South Korean citizens can avoid military service if they win the gold medal in Asian Games. It’s likely we’ll see more South Korean teams enter the Honor of Kings scene.
Mailman is a leading sports digital agency in China. It helps sports organisations & brands build sustainable businesses in China, one of the world’s most challenging markets. Mailman is an Endeavor China company.