Chinese city Hangzhou has pledged 100m yuan (⁓£11.5m) in annual funding to support video games and esports, according to a report by the South China Morning Post.
The city has become a tech and esports hub in the last few years — opening its own ‘esports town’ in 2018 — with the goal to set several esports projects in motion by the end of 2022.
As part of the investment, a number of major academic institutions in Hangzhou will create academic programmes based on video game animation and esports. The institutions that will take part in the initiative include Zhejiang University, China Academy of Art and Zhejiang Media Institute.
The news comes at an interesting time for the city as it currently prepares for the 19th Asian Games, which will take place from September to October 2023. The event was originally set to take place last year, however, it was postponed due to concerns of a COVID-19 outbreak earlier this year.
Moreover, the event will also shine a spotlight on esports, as the discipline makes its debut as an official medal sport in the competition. Athletes will have the opportunity to get a podium finish by competing in Arena of Valor, PUBG Mobile, Dream Three Kingdoms 2, Street Fighter V, League of Legends, Dota 2, FIFA 23 and Hearthstone. Esports has previously been used as a ‘demonstration sport’, notably at the 2018 Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
The city also has an Overwatch League franchise, Hangzhou Spark, which is owned by Chinese online entertainment company Bilibili. The team recently competed in the Overwatch League 2022 Playoffs and managed to bring home $250,000 (⁓£207,000) after placing fourth.
Despite Hangzhou’s effort to boost the esports and gaming industry, many companies continue to suffer sanctions from the Chinese government, as part of its crackdown on rising gaming addiction among young people.