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Friday, May 8, 2015, 11:09

eSports in fight for recognition

By KARL WILSON in Sydney
eSports in fight for recognition
Young men playonline games at an Internet cafe in Beijing. With online games revenues reaching $18.5 billion in 2014, China is one of the fastest-growing games markets in the world. (AFP)

When it comes to eSports in China, one name stands out from all the others — Wei “CaoMei” Han-Dong.

When the Wuhan, Hubei province, native started out as a trainee gamer in 2011, his monthly salary was $491. By June last year he was earning $3,271 a month and is considered a legend among eSports fans.

At the end of 2014 he retired and now earns an annual salary of $817,863 streaming his passion, and he is only 23 years old.

Of course, that salary does not include endorsements.

CaoMei is a former professional gamer whose team, World Elite, won one of the most celebrated tournaments in League of Legends history in 2012, earning him hero status among China’s legion of eSports fans.

League of Legends, a multiplayer battle arena video game, is one of the most successful games of all time. It is played by 7.5 million players online at peak hours globally, and 27 million people daily.

China is one of the fastest-growing games markets in the world.

According to the China Game Publishers Association Publications Committee (GPC), total game revenues reached $18.5 billion in 2014, which was a 37.7 percent increase year-on-year.

The GPC said the total number of players last year showed a relatively modest year-on-year growth of 4.6 percent, reaching 517 million. But even so, this was a 20.6 percent increase on 2013.

In 2009, eSports was recognized by the Chinese sports governing body as an official sport.

Jasper Mah, Asia business development director for Turtle Entertainment, says China has more than six streaming platforms that cater exclusively to broadcasting tournaments and professional gamers.

“With more than 100,000 easily watching the top streamers and broadcasters, it is one of the fastest-growing forms of consumer entertainment in China,” he tells China Daily Asia Weekly.

In many international tournaments, he says, “you will see Chinese qualifiers and Chinese teams”.

“There are more than 15 companies that organize eSports events in China, and some of their biggest tournaments are also backed by municipal governments or state governments,” Mah adds.

But it is not only in China where eSports has taken off.

In South Korea, top players are treated like celebrities and have already become part of mainstream culture.

Couples going to game clubs have become just as common as couples going to the movies, The New York Times said.

In October, more than 40,000 fans filled an outdoor soccer stadium in Seoul used for the 2002 World Cup semi-final to watch the world championship for League of Legends.

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