Last month, Shanghai City authorities unveiled plans and measures intended to facilitate and boost the city’s cultural and creative industries – one of the highlights of the announcement was the plan to become the global Esports capital. This goes a long way in validating their commitment to encouraging investments in the construction of Esports stadiums, developing Esports industrial parks, incubating the local Esports outfits and brands as well as hosting more international tournaments.
In 2017, China’s Esports industry went through a dramatic escalation to over $11 billion – the mobile Esports market alone recorded a 104 percent increase in domestic revenue. Already, a number of popular Chinese brands are getting into Esports after the realization that the statistics are proof that it is here to stay. One such brand is Bilibili, a popular video-sharing site which launched an Esports of the same name on December 18th. Bilibili Gaming will compete in the next season of the League of Legends Pro League which was founded in China back in 2013 and has grown to become an integral part of the Chinese Esports culture.
Esports in China dates back to the late 90s when the country hosted the biggest international tournaments such as the World Cyber Games and Electronic Sports World. Despite having faced a number of problems in following years, the early noughties saw Esports grow to greater heights with the influx of investments in form of capital that significantly helped gamers to secure more lucrative contracts and invest in establishing themselves as professionals. Evidently, this has worked out quite well as proven by the thousands of eager fans who grace Esports events such as last month’s League of Legends World Championship that was held in Bird’s Nest Stadium, Beijing.
Beijing may be a great choice to host Esports tournaments but Shanghai is undoubtedly the home of Chinese Esports. Not only has it hosted a number of tournaments but it also houses the largest number of Esports followers and boasts of a plethora of technological advantages over Beijing. Shanghai’s municipal authorities have not been shy in declaring their support for the gaming culture as well – they have shortened the approval procedures for domestically created games to as little as five days. Furthermore, the municipality is quite welcoming to Esports entrepreneurs from other parts of China while offering local schooling for their children and Shanghainese residency rights as incentives.
As far as technology is concerned, Shanghai has always had an upper hand. The city’s internet speeds, for instance, are the highest in China – even higher than in the capital. This is usually a major consideration for many people especially those who take part in competitive online gaming either as viewers or as players.
Shanghai’s Esports industry indeed has a very bright future but the revolution itself is not without its flaws. A number of issues have been raised regarding the impacts of the industry on the local community. The spoils from the booming Esports business should be plowed back to ensure that quality is guaranteed going forward and that some sort of relevant education is provided as well. Also, just as important is regulation – restrictions need to be made when it comes to the ages of gamers lest the city breeds gaming junkies with little or no education. With the forward-thinking approach of the Shanghainese people and government, Esports education could even be integrated with education to achieve what could possibly be the best result.