China Esports Blast: April 2023

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.

China Esports Blast April 2023 graphic
Image credit: Esports Insider / Mailman Group

Over the past month, the esports industry in China has seen several key partnerships and developments related to League of Legends, the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI), and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang. 

Among the top stories, Beijing Olympic Games Director Zhang Yimou announced that he would direct a League of Legends Pro League-related online drama; Moonton’s Mobile Legends: Bang Bang received game approval from the Chinese government; and British brand Durex signed multiple partnerships with China’s League of Legends esports.

Iconic Chinese film director Zhang Yimou to direct LPL online drama

Zhang Yimou LPL drama
Image via: Mailman Group

Chinese film director Zhang Yimou announced at a press conference that he would direct his first online drama, ‘League of Legends’. According to the Chinese review-aggregation website Douban, the drama will mainly focus on the story of being a professional LPL esports player.

Zhang Yimou has been recognised as one of the best film directors in China over the past 20 years. His films were nominated three times in the Oscars’ Best Foreign Language Film category, and five times for the Golden Globes’ Best Foreign Language Film category. He was also the general director of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games and 2022 Beijing Winter Olympic Games ceremonies. 

We’ve seen that Netflix’s League of Legends animation drama Arcane received significant success in 2021. It will be interesting to see how an Olympic and Oscar level-Chinese film director will direct an online reality drama related to League of Legends and LPL.

Mobile Legends: Bang Bang receives game approval in China

Mobile Legends Bang Bang art
Image via: Mailman Group

Seven years after the game was published in 2016, Chinese game publisher Moonton’s iconic esports title — Mobile Legends: Bang Bang (MLBB) — finally received game approval from China’s National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA), alongside 85 other games.

It’s a milestone moment for Moonton and its parent company ByteDance. MLBB has long been recognised as Honor of Kings’ rival in the international market, and ByteDance is also Tencent’s rival as two Chinese internet giants.  

MLBB is one of the most popular esports titles in Southeast Asia. Whether MLBB can replicate that popularity in China against Tencent’s Honor of Kings is unclear. Mailman Group expects to hear Moonton and ByteDance release more plans and operations of MLBB esports in China this year.

Durex partners with China’s LPL, MSI and Worlds

Durex esports china
Image via: Mailman Group

British condom brand Durex announced it signed multiple partnerships with TJ Sports for the LPL, China’s top-flight League of Legends league, as well as the Mid-Season Invitational (MIS) and League of Legends World Championship (Worlds). 

Durex has already been highlighted in the current MSI 2023 in London with Chinese LPL teams Bilibili Gaming (BLG) and Jing Dong Gaming (JDG). Durex also ran a social media campaign with LPL casters on Weibo where the winner would be invited to the MSI grand final in London. Mailman Group expects more collaboration between Durex and Chinese LPL teams in MSI London.

Esports Insider