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Gaming centres will be key to nurturing new players as Tencent expands esports empire

Tencent League of Legends

The Chinese online game developer company Tencent wants to develop a domestic RMB 100 billion ($14.6bn) esports business. As part of a new five-year plan, a network of electronic gaming centres/theme parks will be built across the country.

The plan also involves the setting up of esports leagues, tournaments and associations. The esports centres will be key to nurturing new players. Chinese sports authorities will co-operate closely with Tencent to establish unified standards for the industry.

Tencent, which also owns the mobile messaging service WeChat, is the world’s largest mobile gaming company by revenue. In 2015 it bought the American developer Riot Games, giving it ownership of League of Legends, the world’s most-played online video game. It has since taken stakes in further companies in the USA and Finland.

China is expected to become the world’s largest esports market. It is predicted there will be 220 million players in the country by the end of this year and 335 million globally. Livestreaming apps are already driving a RMB 50 billion ($7.3 bn) industry.

Tencent has already confirmed plans for an esports theme park in Wuhu, eastern China, as part of a larger esports town. In addition, commentators have suggested the company could be planning a League of Legends theme park.

League of Legends image by Riot Games

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