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Home venue key to eSports future

China | Apr 6, 2018
Tucked away in a nondescript furniture mall, LGD Gaming's multimillion-dollar eSports home venue may not bring to mind Old Trafford or Yankee Stadium, but it could represent the future of sport.

The 400-seat arena in Hangzhou packs in pumped-up fans several times a month for LGD's matches in the League of Legends Pro League, or LPL, a 14-club professional eSports competition that this year began playing in purpose-built home venues.

ESports is booming in China, driven by popular games such as League of Legends and Dota2, raising hopes of eventual Olympic inclusion, and turning young players into rich celebrities. Top Chinese LPL players earn up to US$1.5 million (HK$11.7 million) per year.

Specially designed eSports arenas are appearing in the United States and China to accommodate growing crowds attending multi-team tournaments. But the LPL's "home stadiums" put the mainland ahead of the curve, industry insiders said.

"Home venues let the club localize its fan base," said LGD general manger Yang Shunhua. "It gives fans more opportunity to meet the athletes and clubs. It's the future of eSports." The global professional eSports industry will grow 38 percent in 2018 to US$906 million in revenue, industry analyst Newzoo has forecast, with China representing 18 percent of that, third behind the United States and Europe.

About 380 million fans worldwide will watch professional eSports events this year.

Starting play in 2013, LPL matches were staged in Shanghai, Yang said. But internet giant Tencent, the league's owner, is encouraging teams to lay down local roots.

Three clubs now have home arenas - the others are in Chongqing and Chengdu - and more are planned, Yang said.

Whether the strategy proves successful remains to be seen, but there is no shortage of ambition at LGD's flashy facility, which Yang said cost 30 million yuan (HK$37.34 million).

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE



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