Fledgling eSports boost to nation's economy

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Chinese eSports club Invictus Gaming claimed Chinese mainland's first world championship in the League of Legends after beating European team Fnatic 3-0 in Inchon, South Korea, early this month.

The victory caused a sensation in cyberspace and in return populated this new competitive sport among the public and not just with the younger generation.

ESports has already penetrated the world of competitive video games, the genre is building a large number of fans in China and even government officials are lauding its merits.

Hangzhou's Xiacheng District has already recognized its potential and established an eSports town in June with the aim of alluring game firms, gadget vendors and new players from online broadcasting platforms, professional eSports event organizers, mobile chip and device makers and sporting firms.

In the middle of November, the first project Hailan International eSports Center entered the town. It is an incubator for professional companies. It also researches eSports development trends and culture.

The center covers an area of 150,000 square meters with an investment of 100 million yuan (US$14.41 million). Top-notch facilities include a football field and a basketball court, a gym, a 1,000-seat hall, a five-star real estate management service company and apartment buildings. 

"Financial support from Xiacheng District government has injected energy into our project so the center could be erected smoothly," said Zhang Yong, president of Hailan Group. "We hope to be a new landmark for eSports, a leading trend of the industry, and allure more aficionados."

So far, 125 eSports companies have moved into the center with a total registration capital of 1.5 billion yuan, including LGD, Chushou, Allied Esports and Huxing Cultural Media.

LGD has claimed championships in several worldwide eSports tournaments since the establishment of the gaming league format in 2009. The team now has moved from Shanghai to Hangzhou.

"In the past, we could only rent venues for competitions, but now we have our own venue with top facilities and screens to live stream our contests," said Li Xuan, chief strategy executive of LGD. "We are going to host league matches in January and build it into a top eSports event in China."

At present, LGD has around 100 professionals and a dozen of teams, participating in 40 to 50 international competitions within a year.

"On-the-spot competition totally differentiates from watching video games online. We are expecting to bring more and more offline contests and fans to the town, creating a positive vibe and a cluster effect here," said Li.

Xiacheng District is trying to create an ideal business environment for the eSports industry. In April, it announced a preferential policy including 16 items related to every facet of the industry to attract investment, talent and companies.

Local authorities have set up a foundation of 100 million yuan to support the eSports' development, covering rent, housing, innovation, training, rewards and venues.

For instance, any organization that hosts a world series in the town and offers a prize of more than 10 million yuan for the winners, could be subsidized up to 3 million yuan. If a company holds a national-level competition with a total prize of 3 million yuan, it would be granted with a subsidy of up to 1 million yuan.

Team members are well-respected and well-paid if they win games. Champions are rewarded with a prize fund between 100,000 yuan to 500,000 yuan according to the level of games.

"Now there are 14 projects under construction with an investment of 1.4 billion yuan in the town. The core project is the main venue that has an area of 40,000 square meters and around 10,000 seats. The construction will complete in 2021," said Jiang Liming, director of Hangzhou eSports Town Management Committee.

Once completed, innovative gaming outfits, with specialized computers, keyboards, chips, earphones and large screens in the venue, are expected to attract countless viewers.

ESports officially debuted at the Asian Games in Jakarta in August, and there is talk that the sport could eventually win an Olympic Games' berth.

"If eSports enters the Asian Games in 2022, this venue will definitely become the main venue welcoming players from home and abroad," Jiang added. "It is going to be one of world's top venues hosting international video games."

Within five years, the town is expected to attract 1,000 companies and 10,000 gaming talent, incubate at least 10 top-flight clubs, organize around 1,000 competitions, welcome 2 million visitors, reach a revenue of 1 billion yuan and become a mecca for Chinese eSports fans.

China's eSports game market generated 41.8 billion yuan in the first half of this year, a 16 percent increase from a year earlier and triple the growth of the overall gaming market, according to a report released at ChinaJoy in August.

Boosting eSports is part of a grand plan to broaden Hangzhou's cultural base. In the previous three quarters of this year, the added value of the city's digital industry has already reached 24.56 billion yuan, an increase of 14.1 percent year on year, accounting for 25.4 percent of gross domestic product.

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