E-sports: Shanghai Builds $1.1 Billion Hub in Push to be Global Industry Leader

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China has begun building a US$900 million (S$1.18 billion) facility it hopes will be the envy of e-sports and seal its push to make Shanghai the global capital of the fast-growing professional gaming industry.

The Shanghai International New Cultural and Creative E-sports Centre is scheduled for completion in 2023 and will cost at least 5.8 billion yuan, Chinese authorities and media said.

Officials in the Shanghai district home to the centre said they want it to become “a pilgrimage site” for e-sports enthusiasts from all over the world.

Once finished, it will boast a 6,000-seater e-sports venue, a five-star e-sports-themed hotel and a museum devoted to gaming, Minhang district officials said.

The high-tech hub will span 500,000 sq m and “accommodate hundreds of domestic and foreign e-sports-related enterprises”, the district economic development committee said following Monday’s groundbreaking ceremony.

Speaking to AFP in 2018, leading Shanghai sports official Luo Wenhua said the Chinese city “has proposed to become the capital of e-sports”.

In September-October last year, Shanghai hosted the League of Legends world championships, one of the most prestigious events in e-sports.

Chinese team Suning lost to South Korea’s Damwon Gaming in the final in front of more than 6,000 spectators, bucking the trend in a year when many sports took place behind closed doors because of the coronavirus pandemic.

China, which has an estimated 720 million gamers, will host the tournament again this year.

According to games market research firm Newzoo, global e-sports revenues were expected to grow an estimated US$1.1 billion in 2020, a year-on-year growth of 15.7 per cent. The worldwide audience was also expected to grow to 495.0 million people, a year-on-year growth of 11.7 per cent.

According to a China Daily report last year, e-sports is experiencing a boom in the country, becoming a key driving force boosting the growth of the domestic gaming sector. Major cities and provinces, such as Hainan province, Shanghai, Chongqing and Hangzhou, have been actively competing to become the country’s new e-sports hub.

The competition is understandable.

Xiao Hong, chief executive officer of Perfect World Co Ltd, which helped organise The International 2019, the world’s largest Dota 2 e-sports tournament, explained: “E-sports will… empower other industries, generating a variety of new businesses in terms of tourism, finance, e-commerce and training. Thus it will generate new momentum in the economy and bring more development opportunities for cities.”

E-sports has also been steadily gaining ground in terms of acceptance and recognition from mainstream sports officials.

In 2019, it was included in the programme for the SEA Games in the Philippines while it has also been included for next year’s Asian Games in Hangzhou. It was a demonstration sport at the 2018 edition in Palembang, Indonesia.

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