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New kid on the playground elbows traditional sports like basketball

Shanghai is going to be a global eSports center in near future. It's become a calling card of the city's culture. 

He Mingyang spends 10 to 15 hours a day gaming on computer screens. His forte is eSports and he is considered a pro.

A member of the professional eSports team TyLoo, He doesn’t fit the stereotype of young game addicts that so worry parents and teachers.

In fact, the team members are well-respected and well-paid to boot if they win games such as CS:Go, DOTA2 and PUBG.

The ChinaJoy game show that closed on Monday revealed just how deep eSports has penetrated the world of competitive video games. The genre is attracting millions of new fans in China, including women, and even public officials are lauding its merits.

“Shanghai is going to be a global eSports center in the near future,” said Xu Jiong, head of the Shanghai Municipal Press and Publication Bureau. “It’s become a calling card of the city’s culture.”

China’s eSports game market generated revenue of 41.8 billion yuan (US$6.2 billion) in the first half, 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 effect, eSports is a gold mine for game firms, gadget vendors and new players like online broadcasting platforms, professional eSports event organizers, mobile chip and device makers, and sporting firms.

ESports will officially debut at the Asian Games in Jakarta that begin on August 18, and talk abounds that the sport may eventually win an Olympic Games berth in the future.

Shanghai is trying to create an ideal business environment for the eSports industry. It has approved a professional registry system for players like TyLoo’s He, officials told ChinaJoy’s first eSports forum.

Li Qiang, Shanghai’s Party Secretary, recently visited eSports companies and sites and watched eSports competitions in a show of government support for the industry.

The city plans to offer favorable policies that include facilities and talent recruitment. A new professional eSports industrial zone has been announced for the Pudong New Area, and the city is considering the adoption of eSports management and broadcasting classes in some colleges.

In Pudong, some eSports events are held at the Oriental Sports Center and the Mercedes-Benz Arena, two of the city’s top-tier performance sites.

Steam, one of the biggest global game distribution channels, said it is going to debut in Pudong through a partnership with the Shenzhen-listed Perfect World.

China will have its own “NBA-like” eSports matches in future, said Xiao Hong, chief executive officer of Perfect World.

It’s all part of a grand plan to broaden Shanghai’s cultural base.

Within the next five years, the culture and publication industries are forecast to account for about 15 percent of Shanghai’s gross domestic product, rising to 18 percent in 2030, said Xu.

During ChinaJoy, TyLoo and other eSports teams were on hand in booths of firms like Intel, Nvidia and other vendors. Hundreds of eSports computer, software and chip makers exhibited their newest technology products in ChinaJoy.

Innovative gaming outfits with specialized computers, mouses, keyboards, chips and earphones attracted many viewers.

Companies are utilizing advanced central processing units (CPUs) or graphic processing units (GPUs) in computers, virtual technology and ergonomics, allowing players to enjoy an immersive gaming experience.

CPU technology, which functions as the “heart” of an electronics gadget, is being offered by Intel to companies like Lenovo, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, Tencent and established game software groups.

“The quality of computer equipment is crucial for competition,” TyLoo’s He said in an Intel-sponsored event at ChinaJoy. “Skill, strategy and equipment are the critical triangle for success in eSports.”

Intel’s investment in gaming personal computers is increasing every year, with “game and eSports competitions a growing subfield,” said Mark Subotnick, a business manager of Intel, the world’s biggest PC chip maker.

Zhuang Zhengsong, Chinese general manager of Hewlett-Packard, said the company entered the industry three years ago and it’s become a “worthwhile investment.”

Nvidia, the world’s biggest graphic chip vendor, seeded almost 1,000 GeForce computers in the halls of ChinaJoy, offering players “first-class” gaming experiences through its latest GeForce GTX.

In the upcoming Asia Games in Jakarta, eSports will become a performing event for the first time. Media reports speculated the Olympic Games may be next.

Internet giants like Tencent and Alibaba haven’t been blind to the opportunities.

Tencent plans to expand its King Pro League nationwide, with new cities being added in western China. It also plans to hold international events covering countries like South Korea, said Allan Zhang, King Pro League president at Tencent.

Chinese eSports teams like Newbee, IG, EDG and OMG have already won international eSports championships in the games like DOTA 2, LOL and PUBG. TyLoo, named after a legendary beast said to bring good luck in China, represents Asia’s top level in the CS:GO game.

Winning teams in eSports events can win up to US$3 million or US$4 million each, and they also get a cut of the revenue generated by virtual eSports-themed merchandise.

Shanghai-based VSPN, Tencent’s King Pro League event partner, now operates two professional eSports centers in Shanghai and Chengdu. Its local center can hold audiences of up to 500 people.

Nvidia is now establishing several professional eSports training centers globally, including one soon to open in Shanghai. The centers help eSports players, like TyLoo’s He, improve their skills through “combat” training with high-level eSports teams in Europe and other regions.

Another booming offshoot is mobile eSports, which have a relatively low entry threshold and a wider coverage, including many female fans.

Qualcomm, the world’s top mobile chip designer, made its debut in ChinaJoy this year, showing advanced technology in calculation, connection, pictures and sounds to improve mobile game experiences.

The world will have 2.7 billion mobile gamers in 2021, compared with 2.1 billion in 2017, Qualcomm said.

Meanwhile, China’s Vivo Nex has replaced the iPhone X to become the official model for King Pro League events, showcasing the Chinese smartphone maker’s commitment to eSports.

Dong Jun / SHINE

Game fans try out new equipment at ChinaJoy. The quality of computer equipment is crucial for competition in eSports.

Zhu Shenshen / SHINE

A record 354,000 visitors come to Asia's biggest game show ChinaJoy

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