Each month, sports digital agency Mailman rounds up the biggest industry news and insights from China’s esports scene, along with analysis on why it matters.
June 2023 was significant for PC esports in China as Riot Games revealed more details on its VALORANT China market plan via a press conference in Shanghai.
The Valorant Champions Tour (VCT) Masters Tokyo concluded on June 25th, and Chinese esports organisation Edward Gaming placed top six at the event, becoming the first Chinese esports team to defeat the 2022 World Champions, LOUD. Compared to China’s popular Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) and mobile esports genres, China’s First Person Shooter (FPS) teams usually struggle to get high-ranking results at international competitions.
Among the top business stories in June: VALORANT received an official China launch date; British shoe brand Clarks signed a sponsorship deal with China LPL team LNG; and Wolves Esports announced its Naraka Bladepoint and Identity V divisions had taken place in Chengdu, China.
Riot Games confirms July 12th for VALORANT launch date
On June 28th, Riot Games hosted a press conference in Shanghai and announced that the official launch date of Valorant in China is July 12th. In addition, Riot Games COO Whalen Rozelle also revealed in his speech that the company “hopes” to welcome China to the VCT in 2024.
It is a milestone moment for Riot Games’ game and esports operations in China because Chinese VALORANT players canfinally play the game, seven months after the game first received approval from China’s National Press and Publication Administration (NPPA).
VALORANT has been getting most of the attention in China’s esports industry and is recognised as the next big PC esports title in China. Currently, Chinese teams like Royal Never Give-Up (RNG), EDG, Tyloo, Weibo Gaming (WBG), Bilibili Gaming (BLG) and FunPlus Phoenix (FPX) have established VALORANT divisions. They are competing in Valorant Champions Qualifiers from July 3rd-14th. We expect more teams and brands to enter China’s Valorant esports scene.
Wolves Esports Naraka Bladepoint and Identity V division set settles in Chengdu
On June 8, Wolves Esports, the esports arm of British football club Wolverhampton Wanderers, announced that its Naraka Bladepoint and Identity V divisions had settled in Chengdu’s Jinniu district. The city’s name (Chengdu) will be added to Wolves branding (Chengdu Wolves) when they compete in Naraka Bladepoint and Identity V.
Naraka Bladepoint and Identity V esports are developed and operated by China’s second-largest game publisher NetEase, whilst Wolves Esports’ parent company Fosun Group also has properties in Chengdu. It’s likely that NetEase and Wolves Esports will also host offline activities in Chengdu.
In addition, Wolves Esports’ Honor of Kings division is based in Chongqing, which is exceptionally close to Chengdu, and the two are considered core economic cities of Western China. Geographically, Wolves Esports has taken the lead in esports operations in Western China.
Clarks sponsors China’s LPL team LNG
Last month, British shoe brand Clarks announced a sponsorship deal with China’s League of Legends Pro League (LPL) team LNG, becoming its strategic partner. The Clarks logo would be featured on the left shoulder of the team jersey.
LNG is owned by Chinese apparel brand Li-Ning, which took over from Nike and became the exclusive apparel and shoe sponsor of LPL earlier this year. Therefore, LNG players will not wear Clarks-branded shoes during the competition. Li-Ning also controls Clarks, as the brand acquired a controlling stake from China Viva Group in 2022. This might be why the LPL and Li-Ning approved this sponsorship deal.
Nonetheless, seeing an international, non-endemic brand entering China’s esports market is good news for China’s esports industry.