Chongqing harnesses esports talent to boost digital economy

(Xinhua) 13:12, May 14, 2024

CHONGQING, May 14 (Xinhua) -- Unlike his high school peers, Zhong Letian, better known as "Yaodao," set his sights on the online gaming realm at just 15 years old. By 18, he had made a name for himself in the King Pro League (KPL) Fall, an official seasonal tournament of Honor of Kings, embarking on his journey in professional esports.

In 2019, China's Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, along with two other government agencies, included esports players and operators in the list of 13 new occupations. This move came 16 years after esports was officially recognized as a sport in China.

With 488 million esports users in China, the actual revenue of the esports industry hit 26.35 billion yuan (about 3.7 billion U.S. dollars) in 2023, according to the 2023 China esports industry report released by the electronic sports committee of China Audio-Video and Digital Publishing Association.

"Although esports players have now become a formal profession, when I first broached the idea to my mom in 2016 I got a severe beating as she thought I just wanted to avoid studies," said Zhong. However, that didn't discourage him; instead, he persevered. For instance, while most people typically require a year to achieve the highest rank in Honor of Kings, he accomplished it in just three months.

Venturing into an esports organization in Shanghai in 2017, Zhong encountered numerous challenges, enduring rigorous training sessions from 10 a.m. to 1 a.m. the next day. He recalled how, despite the hardships, his conviction in his chosen path only grew stronger. "At that time, I was filled with excitement about being a professional gamer. Eventually, my mom relented after she saw my dedication and efforts."

As a professional gamer, Zhong currently plays for Chongqing Wolves, one of the 18 professional teams in KPL, in the Bishan District of southwest China's Chongqing Municipality.

With the cooperation of the Chongqing Administration of Sport, Chongqing Broadcasting Group, Bishan District and Shanghai Fosun Sports Group, Chongqing Wolves landed in Bishan in October 2023, with a professional team of 11 gamers, five coaches and dozens of operators. Chongqing will become the seventh city to host KPL matches, joining six other cities including Shanghai, Hangzhou and Chengdu later in 2024.

"As Chongqing emerges as a new home ground for esports, it has so much potential worthy of mining, and I can get more chances here," said Zhong, who now is a top gamer and has won five championships for Chongqing Wolves. Moreover, as a native of Chengdu in Sichuan Province, a city near Chongqing, he has the advantage of playing in a familiar environment.

"Honor of Kings division is the most competitive tournament for our organization," said Wang Yuyan, the marketing director of Wolves Esports. "As a nine-time champion, we have a fan base of around 50 million people. In 2023, there were 160 trending topics about us on China's X-like platform Weibo."

"The arrival of Chongqing Wolves is a big boost for Bishan's digital economy, especially for the esports industry," said Zhang Xiujuan, the deputy director of the Bishan District Digital Economy Task Force.

According to Zhang, a brand-new esports stadium is expected to open in Bishan in 2024, capable of accommodating up to 200,000 spectators and hosting no less than 50 esports events annually.

Zhong said that he and his teammates are currently gearing up for the KPL Spring 2024, the highest seasonal league tournament where 18 teams compete for a prize pool of 15 million yuan.

"It's a completely different feeling when you're playing just as a gamer and as a professional one. Esports gives us game lovers a chance to show our talent and efforts. It's pretty cool to be watched by millions of audiences," said Shuang Xiaojun (better known as Guiqi), a 19-year-old starting player for Wolves.

Looking ahead, Zhong has his sights set on achieving a record of 10 championships. "Age won't be an issue for me. I will practice very hard to bridge any potential gap between myself and younger players, and bring laurels for my family," he said.

(Web editor: Zhang Kaiwei, Zhong Wenxing)


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