China’s e-sports games revenues are expected to exceed RMB50 billion ($7.3 billion) for 2016, a 50% rise from 2015 due to the increasing popularity of tournaments among organisers and players, according to IDC's latest "China E-sports Industry Review and Outlook" study.

China’s e-sports industry has grown more professional and integrated with entertainment industries as e-sports have become part of “pan entertainment.”

IDC study expects total prize bonus offered in global e-sports tournaments to reach RMB560 million ($81.3 million) in 2016, with RMB250 million ($36.3 million) coming from open competitions held in China, making China one of the top organisers of e-sports tournaments. The report shows that China currently has more than 500 professional e-sports teams competing in tournaments, with over 10,000 amateur teams registering for online tournaments.

Professionalisation of e-sports

There are now nearly 2,000 professional e-sports tournament planning and organising institutions in China, including government agencies such as the Information Center of the General Administration of Sport, the local government of Yinchua in Ningxia, and Yiwu in Zhejiang Province.

E-sports clubs have also become standardised in their operations and player management. In 2016, professional Chinese e-sports clubs continued to learn from South Korean peers by drawing upon the traditional sports club model to develop operational models that better suit the e-sports industry environment in China.

Nine clubs formed the China CS:GO Alliance, laying the foundation for future development of e-sports games in the country. At this year's China DOTA2 Professional League, a player registration system was introduced for the first time. The establishment of a registration management system along with a system to track tournament points has further standardised and guided the development of e-sports tournaments in China, preventing excessive commercialisation of e-sports games while protecting e-sports fans' right to participation.

In a bid to train more professionals for the emerging e-sports industry, China’s Ministry of Education announced that it would add 13 new college curriculums such as e-sports games and management in 2017.

Emerging mobile e-sports

2016 has been billed as the year mobile e-sports gained traction in China. Mobile e-sports revenue is expected to hit RMB17.6 billion ($2.6 billion) in 2016, almost triple of last year’s RMB6 billion ($870 million). Promoted by game vendors including Tencent and Hero Entertainment, as well as mobile phone makers such as Huawei, mobile e-sports games can now be found in leading e-sports tournaments in the country. Industry concerns about poor operability and short lifespan of mobile e-sports games also eased over the year. All leading e-sports clubs have started to establish mobile e-sports teams and take part in tournaments.

Chinese companies have also stepped up their inroads in the mobile gaming industry and were on a shopping spree in 2016. Notable deals include Tencent’s acquisition of Finnish mobile game developer Supercell, the maker of the popular Clash of Clans game, and Chinese mobile ad platform Mobvista’s purchase of US-based NativeX, a startup that makes advertising for mobile games and apps. Mobile gaming revenue in China reached RMB81.9 billion ($11.9 billion) in 2016, up from last year’s RMB51.5 billion ($7.5 billion) and accounting for nearly half of the total gaming revenue of RMB165.6 billion ($24 billion), according to the IDC Worldwide Gaming report.

'Pan entertainment'

2016 saw even more entertainment celebrities entering the e-sports industry. Ties between the e-sports industry and traditional entertainment programs have also strengthened. In November, a Chinese live video streaming platform invited popular Korean stars to take part in the China-South Korea Superstar Tournament.

In addition to attracting an 11 million audience, the event offered new perspective on e-sports pan entertainment. E-sports involvement in pan entertainment is expected to deepen in the future.

Stricter live game broadcasting supervision

China’s fast-growing live broadcasting industry serves as a catalyst to the booming e-sports industry. However, irregularities exist in China’s live broadcasting platforms. As a result, Chinese government has tightened supervisions on live broadcasting content as part of its efforts to standardise commercialisation activities in the live broadcasting industry.