LoL Worlds day one: No Chinese teams, 29m Chinese viewers

The growth of esports is often reported upon in the mainstream press, but the significance of the Chinese market is not always highlighted specifically. However, when it comes to games such as League of Legends and Dota 2, the audience for the game in that part of the world is not just significant but, to some extent vital to the continued growth of the scene overall, as day one of the League of Legends World Championships demonstrated.

As you can see, on day one of the play-ins, when no Chinese team was actually on show, 29m of the just over 30m viewers were in China, with the next most significant viewerbase England and then Vietnam. When you consider the fact the Chinese fans are massively patriotic and support their home heroes, the sheer scale of their contribution to the audience cannot me overstated, and their importance going forward is equally obvious.

Just this year, the final of the Mid Season Invitational between RNG and Kingzone Dragons drew 126m views in China alone. Compare that to the way ELEAGUE celebrated breaking the 1m viewer mark for a CSGO event in the US, and the scale of what China has to offer not just League and Dota, but new esports and those that don’t currently do well over in that part of the world is obvious, and startling.

This is pertinent at this point in time particularly for CSGO, a game that has struggled to find income streams to match the level of spending we’ve seen in recent years, and one that would love to find a bigger audience in China and other parts of Asia. At the moment, the traditional esports hotbeds of China and South Korea are fairly ambivalent about the biggest first-person shooter in esports, with the latter nation far more interested in Blizzard’s class-based shooter, Overwatch.

When you add to that the near half a billion hours Chinese viewers spent glued to The Interational this year, it’s clear this is a market all games need to look into. Assumptions about how easy it will be to monetise Chinese fans have been a barrier to that for some time, but increasing attempts to monetise Western audiences haven’t gone that smoothly yet, with even a change of streaming platform to increase revenue drawing the ire of the community who still get to watch the action for free.

With the issues around LoL Worlds so far, Riot will also be pleased to see their flagship game going strong. It’s been a tough 12 months for the company with reports of internal issues and fans unhappy with the organisation of events, so a good headline here and there will be welcome for Riot and their paymasters at Tencent.

Picture: Chris Yunker