While the esports industry’s size and growth in the past decade are hard to ignore, it’s also worth noting that its unique history and cultural context within China might be misunderstood by some. So here, we look at 10 misconceptions about the Chinese esports industry.
1) Chinese esports is an untapped market
People think that Chinese esports is an untapped market, and it’s not. According to iResearch, China’s esports market size was estimated to be 167.3 billion RMB (24.4 billion USD) in 2021 and increased 13.6% in 2022, so it’s easy to see why people would think this way. However, the fact of the matter is, China has been one of the world’s largest markets for esports.
Moreover, the explosion of mobile esports in 2019 alone, when they hosted their first League of Legends tournament, has meant that their audience has only increased since then. The number of professional gamers in China has also skyrocketed in recent years as more people became interested in playing games competitively.
2) China is a homogenous market
Contrary to popular belief, China is not a homogenous market. A large part of this misconception stems from the fact that most Chinese esports players and fans are from large cities like Shanghai and Beijing. While it’s true that these cities have a lot of influence on what happens in China’s esports world, there are still many other smaller cities that produce excellent players and fans.
Another reason for this misconception is that a lot of people don’t know about the huge variety of esports games available in China. There are hundreds of different games played by millions of people every day, including the most popular esports titles like DOTA 2, Overwatch, Player Unknown Battlegrounds (PUBG), and League of Legends – many of which are not represented in English-language media at all.
3) If you don’t speak Mandarin, you can’t get into the industry in China
This isn’t true. In fact, most of the people who work in esports in China are from other countries – and many of them don’t speak Mandarin. An example is Lee “Scout” Ye-chan from South Korea, the MVP of Edward Gaming and competes in League of Legends. Another is Song “Rookie” Eui-jin, also a League of Legends player and has a championship win in front of his fellow Korean countrymen while bringing a Chinese team’s flag. Song studied Mandarin after he transferred to China.
Some players may have had to learn the language to adjust to their jobs or maybe even for school, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t get a job in esports if you don’t already know Chinese. The Chinese esports industry is growing rapidly, and new players are entering every day. You just need to learn how to communicate with your teammates and opponents!
4) Asia pays less than the West
Contrary to popular belief, esports in China is actually more developed than in North America and Europe. The Chinese government has invested heavily in esports, especially in the city of Hangzhou, which wants to be the world’s capital of esports, with many of their top players getting scholarships to study at universities. They also have many networks and channels dedicated exclusively to esports, and some popular ones include Douyu, Huya and Panda TV, which are all live streaming platforms focused on video games and esports content. These platforms provide a space for gamers to stream their gameplay, as well as for fans to watch and engage with their favourite players and teams.
China’s government has also been much more willing to fund Western esports teams and players who have moved to China, which means that the players from the West are losing out due to misconceptions about how much money you can make there.
5) The Chinese government holds all the cards
In fact, it’s quite the opposite: much of the Chinese esports industry is primarily driven by private companies, but they are subject to government regulations, such as obtaining game publishing licenses, and must also abide by media regulations.
The Chinese government has been supportive of the growth of the esports industry, recognising its potential for economic development, but at the same time, it is also concerned about the negative impact that some video games and esports content may have on young people. As a result, the government has implemented certain controls and restrictions to ensure that the industry develops in a healthy and regulated manner.
6) There’s no real money in esports in China
It’s true that the Chinese esports industry is still in its infancy, but it’s also true that there is a lot of money to be made.
In fact, the Chinese esports market is expected to reach 1.4 billion USD by 2022 and 1.9 billion USD by 2025, with revenue from advertising and sponsorship alone expected to reach 262.30 million USD in 2023.
The chief misconception about Chinese esports is that there is no money in this industry. The truth is that while the market may still be relatively new, there are many ways for players and teams to make a profit—and they’re making a lot of money right now.
7) It’s all about live streaming in China
One common misconception is that the Chinese esports industry is all about live streaming. While live streaming is certainly a big part of it because during live streams you can market or show your tools, accessories, and software used, like the popular streaming tool Stream yard, with StreamYard Alternatives such as OBS, Restream, etc. but to showcase your skills and talent in gaming, there’s so much more to it than that.
Besides, we’re not even talking about the entire Chinese esports industry here – we’re only talking about the games that are most popular in China such as Dota 2, League of Legends, and Overwatch. You might have a notion that these games are all about live streaming, but you’d be wrong. In fact, most of them don’t have anything to do with it at all.
For example, League of Legends and Dota 2 are both huge hits in China, but neither game is even remotely like Twitch or YouTube Live in terms of their streaming culture. The biggest tournaments for these games take place offline (in arenas) or online (on servers), and they involve teams competing against each other in matches.
Even though live streaming is efficient, it takes a lot of storage space whether online or offline. Most streamers use a video compressor to remedy this and an mp4 compressor is globally used, and the most popular format for gamers and streamers.
Live streaming is certainly a big part of these games. That said, it’s not the only component keeping them so popular among gamers right now.
8) Conferences and events are huge in China
The Chinese esports industry is one of the most important in the world, but it’s also one of the least understood. A lot of people think that conferences and events are huge in China – but they’re actually not. Most people think it’s because there aren’t as many big tournaments hosted in China as there are in other countries like Korea or North America, but that isn’t true either.
So then why is it that so many people think Chinese esports conferences and events are small? The truth is that China has some amazing conventions – the only problem is that no one outside of Asia knows about them.
This is not meant as a slight on the Chinese esports community – but it’s very hard for people outside of China to get information about what goes on there. Most westerners don’t speak Chinese, so they can’t read any written materials about the conventions. Even if they do speak the language, most people in America have never been to China before and don’t know anyone who could help them find out more about what’s going on there.
9) Esports is a game of the past — mobile gaming is where it’s at now
Esports is a game of the past – mobile gaming is where it’s at now. That seems to be the prevailing opinion in the West, but couldn’t be further from the truth.
In China, esports is just getting started. There are currently more than 30 million esports players in the country and that number is growing every day. And there are more than 1 billion mobile gamers in China – one of the largest markets for mobile gaming in the world. In fact, China has more mobile gamers than anywhere else.
China’s mobile gaming market is expected to reach 97.35 billion USD in 2023. And the country is expected to account for more than half the world’s mobile gaming revenue this year and next. And it’s not just about revenue – the size and scope of China’s esports market are also growing rapidly.
10) Esports are mostly popular among men and young people in China
Yes, men are more likely to play esports than women, but the number of female players is actually growing faster than their male counterparts. In fact, the number of female mobile gamers in China has risen steadily from 24.9% to 49.4% between 2014 and 2016, according to a report published by Beijing-based analytics firm TalkingData. The majority of these female players play on mobile devices, however, the number of professional female players remains low.
The growth of female esports players in China can be attributed to several factors, including:
- Increased representation and visibility of female gamers in the industry, leading to greater interest and participation.
- Growing support and investment from companies and organisations in female esports, including tournaments, sponsorships, and other initiatives.
- The rise of mobile gaming, which has made gaming more accessible and appealing to a wider demographic, including women.
- The rise of live streaming platforms has allowed female gamers to showcase their skills and reach a wider audience, helping to break down traditional gender barriers and stereotypes.
All of these factors have helped to create a supportive and inclusive environment for female esports players in China, encouraging more women to get involved in the industry and pursue careers as professional gamers.
So why all the confusion? I would say the first step to dispelling these ten common misconceptions is better communication on behalf of Chinese organisations and players. By actively communicating and sharing their story, they can earn more respect from those outside of the country. At the same time, Western organisations need to regard China in much the same way you might regard an investment opportunity: with a combination of interest and caution, always keeping in mind that there are risks involved. If it’s risky for them, it’s risky for us. With a little more research we can have a much better idea of the lay of the land ahead of us, and whether or not this bold new frontier will hold any return.
The esports industry is too young and too new for us to make any such proclamations. However, there are some unique opportunities in the Chinese market that some may wish to take into consideration. If you’re looking for a reliable, targeted market in which to invest your advertising dollar in the future, China may very well be worth researching further.