Asian eSports Market Taking Digital Football to Another Level

Whoever develops a growing interest in esports should take a look at whatever happens in Asia. South Korea, China etc. really are pioneers – and European clubs can benefit from their knowledge.

The look abroad is always needed if football teams want to evolve and get prepared for the adaption of new elements. eSports has indeed started to establish itself as kind of a parallel sports clubs bank on to gain new fans and more income. While the motives should be examined precisely, football brands should have a look at the Asian eSports market to ready themselves for what lies ahead in that very segment. For it holds so many lucrative options; the Wolverhampton Wanderers are one of the teams looking to take advantage of that.

Wolves form Wolves Weibo eSports section for China

In a football context, the concentration on EA Sports’ FIFA is understandable, when it comes to eSports. Most teams in Europe already have their teams in place to represent them at domestic competitions – or the new eChampions League from EA Sports.


Meanwhile, in the ePremier League, Wolverhampton Wanderers’ representative has made it to the finals, which are played later this month.

The English club has really adopted eSports holistically. Now, they form a team to play in China as they partner with the Shanghai Jingzong Culture Media Company which owns Weibo eSports. The Wolves Weibo eSports team will be launched via an event in March and take part in the Chinese FSL (FIFA Online 4 Star League).

Wolves are going to China with new eSports section, © Wolverhampton Wanderers

The club wants to conquer the market in China. Therefore, the Wolves have taken to Weibo, which has 445 million daily active users and offers a great opportunity to gain new followers and fans for a club re-establishing itself quite impressively in the Premier League right now.

The esports market in China is growing at pace and we wanted to follow-on from the success of our existing esports team with a dedicated China presence. This collaboration is very exciting as it will see us partner with a world class esports club and one of the biggest media platforms in China,

said Russel Jones, head of marketing at Wolves. And Guangzhuo Shi, CEO of Jingzong Culture Media Company, added:

This cooperation is very exciting for Weibo eSports. Wolves are a very well-known and respected football club across the World. Partnering with Wolves, to form Wolves Weibo eSports, will help us reach an entirely new audience and provide powerful additional resources.

The move to China could turn out to be a quite shrewd one as in Asia, and especially in China, eSports is much more of a real economy already.

Asian eSports sets the tone

China have only recently accepted eSports as a real profession. For the country certainly has a big and lucrative eSports industry already, second only to North America. That is relating to a study by Tencent, which is quoted in the ESports Observer. According to that, the Chinese eSports market will grow to 1,5 billion US dollar in 2020, up from around 760 million in 2017. While North America made 258 million US dollar from eSports-related aspects, China’s revenue was estimated at 104 million in 2017 – South Korea followed with about 49 million.

Well, these numbers are one thing. Another is the sheer amount of people clubs and brands can reach in the Asian and Chinese markets. Because in 2020, the global eSports user base is expected to grow to 590 million, yet, 59 per cent or 350 million of those originate from China. Although that means a decline in per cent, China is still extremely important for any club and their internationalisation strategies. And being present on WeChat or Weibo alone will not be enough as eSports’ ever growing popularity can help clubs and brands reach a whole new audience.

The importance is clear to see when you look at the deal between Nike and TJ Sports from Tencent and Riot Games. Dot ESports report about a deal worth about 7,5 million US dollar annually, which sees Nike create the official clothing for the League of Legends Pro League. Furthermore, starting from the mid-season Invitational, fans can purchase sneakers and apparel from Nike and the LPL.

Additionally, Nike will provide players and teams with strength training programs to improve mental and physical health as well as stamina.

eSports potentials need to be assessed accurately

As the Asian eSports market offers a lot of potential, other teams are making their move, too. PSG, who already have teams for DOTA2 or FIFA in China, start with a Mobile Legends team for the Mobile Legends Pro League Season 3 in Indonesia.

Asia is a strategic market for PSG Esports. It’s time for us to move down to Asia Pacific. With 43 millions Mobile Legends players, half of them in Indonesia, getting into this game was obvious for us. PSG Esports is striving for the best and we are glad to make an association with leading Team RRQ,

commented Yassine Jaada, Chief Gaming Officer of PSG eSports. Thus, not only China should be considered, if football clubs want to expand their eSports brand to Asia. According to the ESports Insider, the ESL will bring more DOTA2 tournaments to new markets like Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia. And for any club or brand this opens the door to opportunities for reaching new audiences across Asia.

But before clubs start their journey, there are a lot of questions that need to answered honestly. What do they expect from their involvement in the eSports market? For only an authentic approach will provide ongoing appeal, income and fan engagement. Apart from that, it’s important to know which games should be focused. Yes, FIFA has the closest ties to football. But in Japan, the J1 League collaborate with Konami to form an eSports league in which Pro Evolution Soccer – known as Winning Eleven in Japan – will be played, as SportsPro Media report. And DOTA2, League of Legends or what have you will be of growing importance if new audiences should be made aware of a brand. Yet, football clubs cannot view eSports as an extension of their traditional brand and a mere revenue driver, since it’s a unique universe – which on one hand offers unique opportunities, not least in Asia, but on the other hand demands an approach appreciative of the long existing eSports culture.

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