League of Legends, an online video game made by Riot Games, has gained international popularity since it was introduced as an eSport. Over 60 million unique viewers watched the final of League of Legends’ most recent global tournament. The majority of said views came from China, which has seen a recent massive explosion in the popularity of eSports.
Professional League of Legends is split up into leagues all over the world. The Chinese league, called the LPL (League of Legends Pro League,) consists of fourteen different clubs.
LPL teams pull in millions on millions of views, sponsorships from big names like Mercedes-Benz, and partnerships with organizations such as Paris Saint Germain.
All Chinese teams own multi-million dollar stadiums, as well. Said stadiums are specifically located in competing cities in an attempt to entice viewers to become fans of the different clubs, not just individual players. Fans’ loyalty to LPL players has become a large problem in other regions, as many teams have had a hard time retaining their fans due to merchandising issues. In North America and Europe, most available jerseys are either centered around a team or a specific player– never a mix of both.
Players who sign to LPL teams get merchandising deals which both advertise said players’ unique abilities and connote the importance of the the players’ team with a “healthy” salary. Reports of players receiving salaries in the millions are not rare. Players make even more profit by streaming on various sites which opearte within China.
One of the world’s best players, Faker, accepted a small contract of 2.5 million USD a year with his current Korean team when compared to the contract which was offered to him by a Chinese team.
Korea had a large competitive edge over China for a while. However, the tables have turned this year. China is experincing more success than ever before. This fact has only increased viewership, as Chinese viewers tend to stop watching matches when Chineses teams are knocked out tournaments.
The 2017 World Championship for League of Legends was held in the Bird’s Nest, in Beijing. The Bird’s Nest is an insanely expensive stadium which was originally built for the Olympics. The building cost $423 million to construct, and it can seat 80,000 people. Tickets for this match sold out within minutes. While the League of Legends final brought in many viewers, the match was between two Korean teams. As such, the match did not reach its potential mass of vieweres.
China is heavily favored to win the 2018 World Championship. As such, viewership going past 100 million would not be far-fetched at all.
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