If you think like the Chinese, it will perhaps be a no-brainer. But if you are an outsider, the answer will surprise you.
The box office for Esports tickets wears a deserted look. But don’t mistake it for no-takers. It’s because the tickets are not available and are the costliest. Whatever was put up for sale has been snapped up, especially the tickets for the finals that are priced at 1000 RMB each or almost 11,500 Indian rupees. The minimum price is not cheap either, at 400 RMB or Chinese Yuan. In Indian rupees that’s almost 4520.
“Theoretically, the tickets are available at the box office too, but you will never get it from there,” said a fan at the Hangzhou Esports Centre, who also writes on Esports and did not wish to be named.
When Esports was included as a demonstration sport at the Jakarta Asian Games in 2018, it garnered a lot of attention; and the Olympic Council of Asia decided to make it a medal event for the Games in the world’s tech capital – Hangzhou.
The response has been overwhelming, with over 30 nations fielding contingents for what has become one of the world’s most popular sports attractions in a very short span of time.
China foresaw that. It was one of the first countries to give Esports the status of a sport. That’s definitely one of the reasons for the tremendous amount of understanding for the sport here, besides its insane following.
“This is like the most popular sport in China right now, most likely the popularity of Esports is like soccer and basketball in China,” said the fan/writer.
RICH AND FAMOUS, BUT….
When Lee ‘Faker’ Sanghyeok arrived for the Asian Games in China, a huge crowd reportedly turned up to get a glimpse of him, despite China’s cut-throat Esports rivalry with South Korea.
“Faker is like the Michael Jordan of Esports and Korea is like the mortal enemy of China in Esports. But we still pay respect to him,” the fan clearly took over the writer in this gentleman who spoke to TimesofIndia.com in Hangzhou..
When it comes to China, ‘Uzi’ or ‘Mad Dog’ has a cult-like following, even though he has retired. His original name Jian Zihao, ‘Uzi’ retired in 2020 due to health concerns. He was just 23 then, but decided to not continue as a professional Esports player after being diagnosed with diabetes — a result of an upside-down daily routine as a gamer, which also means hardly any physical activity.
That’s the dark side of the profession – rising stress levels, irregular, unhealthy diets and no physical exercise.
The Chinese government has taken note of that hazard. In fact in 2020, an online gaming curfew was imposed by the government for those under the age of 18. They were not allowed to be online from 10 pm to 8 am.
So it can be a double-edged sword. While gamers may earn millions, many end up paying the big price in the form of serious health concerns.
“On average, an Esports player in China earns 10,000 US dollars a month,” said the anonymous fan.
But health hazards related to gaming haven’t led to any dip in interest for Esports. On the contrary, the industry is crunching mind boggling numbers with more and more people becoming part of it.
If one mentions ‘LoL’ in conversation with anyone even remotely related to gaming in China, he or she will get immediate attention. LoL may be short for ‘Laugh out Loud’ to the chat-savvy world outside China and Korea, but it’s only ‘League of Legends‘ for the Esports enthusiasts here.
“We are the most competitive team in the LoL World Championships,” a sense of pride clearly reflected in his voice. “It’s the most famous league and has like 18 teams.”
People on the stands watch the Arena of Valor Asian Games Version Final. (Reuters Photo)
‘DO NOT CHEAT’
A first look upon entering the stadium for non-Esports followers is quite perplexing. It’s dark, lit almost exclusively with laser lights, with a giant four-way screen hanging on top of the centrestage where players of the competing teams sit in front of the computer screens to play and the crowd can watch the game on the screen.
Judges stand behind the players and a huge technical workstation seating officials overlooks the playing stage.
The judges make sure the players do not contact the crowd and do not use their phones. They can disqualify a player caught using cheating programmes or setting macros, or ‘an automated input sequence that imitates keystrokes or mouse actions’.
The competition events at the Asian Games include PC as well as mobile games in both multiplayer and individual events. The most popular among the games played are the LoL and Arena of Valor.
In 2018, India’s Tirth Mehta finished third in Hearthstone. But that has been excluded from this edition.
In Hangzhou, Charanjot Singh and Karman Singh Tikka are leading India’s representation in Esports.
THE BUSINESS ANGLE
According to a report by the Associated Press, a research by ‘Newzoo’ says “Annual revenues are expected to grow by 2.6% to $187.7 billion, with 46% from the Asia-Pacific region, followed by 27% from North America and 18% from Europe.”
But interestingly it also mentions how the Middle East and Africa are witnessing “the strongest growth” in the Esports industry.
Most of the expected growth in terms of the number of players has been attributed to mobile gaming.
When it comes to organising Esports leagues, venues and production, VSPO, whose Instagram account describes it as the ‘leading esports tournament operator in Asia’ rules the roost. Its worth can be gauged by the fact that in February this year, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund shelled out $265 million to become VSPO’s single largest equity holder.
WHAT IT POINTS TOWARDS
Hangzhou and China have almost erased all doubt about the future of Esports. Almost every visitor to the Asian Games believes that the future is technology, and Esports is leading the way in strengthening that notion.
It will be no surprise that the economics and business of Esports, along with its popularity among the fans, will seriously push the International Olympic Committee to include it in its Games programme for the Olympic Games in the near future. In fact, in a recent move, the IOC has put an Esports Commision in place.
But to get everyone on board and on the same page for a decision to include Esports in the Olympic programme, the health-related perils of the gaming world warrant a serious look, despite the genre’s popularity that is growing at supersonic speed.
Hangzhou ready for ‘Smart’ Asian Games