League Of Legends World Championship Comes To China

Lee Riot Games

The League Of Legends World Championship is heading to China for season six, bringing the most-anticipated esport of the year to Wuhan and Beijing. It might surprise Westerners how popular the MOBA has become in China, which boasts the largest population out of any region. Around 111 million accounts are battling on Summoner’s Rift from China, according to laoyuegou.com , a summoner database. That doesn’t mean there are that many players, but even if it’s just half of that number, it’s quite insane.

A 2016 Forbes article seems to support this figure: “There are more than 100 million eSports fans in China alone, watching professional gamers and tournaments online, live or on TV.”

North American players on reddit seem to be baffled that there are a lot of League Of Legends players in China. “Kinda makes NA seem insignificant,” writes scramlink. According to OP.GG , there are 1,446,916 NA accounts, which does kind of make the region feel small. The second biggest region is EUW, which covers all of western Europe and only has 3,123,259 ranked accounts.

According to unrankedsmurfs.com, Korea and NA still comprise the majority of players, but they only get one server apiece. Chinese players are spread out among 26 servers, including one designated solely for players Diamond 1 and above. League servers work differently in China; there, you actually get to pick where you want to go. Since there are so many players, each server is packed to the brim and it wouldn’t surprise me if they added more in the future.

Esports is a huge venture in China, with other games hosting tournaments there this year. In July, I’ll be flying out to Shanghai to watch the Hearthstone HCT Summer Championship. Even though it’s just a simple card game, Blizzard expects thousands of fans to fill out the seats of a stadium just to watch. The last HCT event, the Winter Championship held in the Bahamas, barely had enough audience members to fill the seats.

I’m not the right person to ask about why esports has become so popular in China, but I can make a few educated guesses. With the rise of the Chinese economy, more people than ever have access to computers, either in their own homes or internet cafes. The population of China is nearly 1.4 billion people, which means that only a fraction of the population are watching or playing games like League Of Legends . The “111 million” number seems a lot less ludicrous when you compare it to the rest of the population around the world.

An important thing to note: China’s largest internet company, Tencent, owns Riot Games, the guys who make League Of Legends . Imagine if Amazon owned a video game and then pushed it on everyone using their service. That game could dominate the market, blocking out any other competitor dumb enough to step on their feet. You laugh, but now that net neutrality is dead, anything is possible.

China will continue to be the largest consumer of professional gaming, which makes it a gold mine for these companies. Blizzard and Riot Games know that keeping the Chinese market happy is the best way to keep their games healthy and profitable. The next few years are going to be big for Chinese esports, either the industry continues to expand or the boom will die out and people will move on to the next big-money maker. I don’t see China slowing down anytime soon, so expect to see more tournaments coming in the next few years.

Do you think China has a stranglehold on the esports market, or is it just me being crazy?

Join the Discussion
Top Stories