Image courtesy of League of Legends Esports

Like the rest of the world, the esports market in China is booming, and it’s on track to get a whole lot bigger. According to a report published by Tencent, the Chinese esports user base is expected to reach 350 million in 2020. This is a 40% increase compared to the 250 million users reported in 2017. For comparison, the Chinese esports market accounts for 64% of the 390 million global esports users. Meanwhile, the esports market value in China is predicted to grow to RMB 9.7 billion (US $1.5 billion) during the same time frame. The country is the second largest market in terms of revenue, placing behind North America in 2017.

A display of the Arena of Valor tournament booth at E3 2018

Courtesy of Tencent

Tencent and the future of esports

Tencent, a Chinese multinational investment holding conglomerate, is a massive player in the future of esports. Two of their subsidiaries, Epic Games and Riot Games, are responsible for what are arguably the two most popular competitive games in the world, Fortnite and League of Legends. Not only does Tencent own 48.4 percent of Epic and 100 percent of Riot, but they also have ownership stakes in Activision-Blizzard and Ubisoft. Furthermore, the company recently announced their plans to invest RMB 100 million (US $15.75 million) on “esports, marketing and infrastructure in China.” This news comes just a few months after Tencent parterned with Bluehole to distribute the other battle royale wunderkid, PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, in China.

Furthermore, Tencent continues to expand upon their gaming portfolio. For starters, according to their website, Tencent Games is currently the “largest online games community in China.” This comes as no surprise when you consider their flagship title Arena of Valor, which reported 200 million monthly active players in 2017. Following the announcement of a partnership with Nintendo, Arena of Valor will soon be available on the Nintendo Switch as well. While this will boost the game’s core playerbase, it also gives Tencent an opportunity to cater to western audiences. Clearly, the studio is invested in this idea, as shown by their presence at E3 this year. For their first appearance at this trade show, the company broadcasted the Arena of Valor global play-off tournaments.

How mobile will dominate the market

Not only is the studio responsible for creating hit games, but they’re influencing the way those games are watched and enjoyed, too. To do so, the company started Penguin e-Sports, a mobile esports live streaming platform. Aside from offering a streaming service similar to Twitch, this company acts as a hub of information and resources for esports fans.

Penguin e-Sports enables users to watch live streaming videos from well-known game hosts, establish e-sports competitions in one step, acquire professional e-sports information, find like-minded friends and enjoy one-stop mobile e-sports experience.

Tencent’s involvement in this platform is significant for the future of mobile esports. With the esports growing in China, the trends of their market could have a global impact. By focusing their efforts on legitimizing mobile esports such as Arena of Valor, as well as by offering a social platform specifically geared towards mobile interaction, Tencent is showing the world that they believe the future of esports is on mobile.

With the world’s largest video game company making these moves, it won’t be long before a wave of others follow. Some western developers, such as EA, have already taken the first steps. Announced at E3 this year, Command & Conquer: Rivals, will be an online-only, competitive mobile game. It’s a bold decision, and the reveal was accompanied by a live match, complete with shoutcaster commentary. As the first mainline entry in the beloved franchise since 2012, EA clearly sees potential in the mobile esports market. There’s been a lot of discussion surrounding mobile esports, and we’re surely going to see more studios capitalize on this.

Is it enough for you to make the switch, or do you believe esports belongs on console and computer?

Raphael Bastek
Just another talking head on the internet, occasionally spouting off thoughts about video games. Some recent obsessions include Persona, Overcooked, and, once and forever, Dragon Warrior VII. 

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