Women becoming key consumers for esports

PHOTO: China Daily

China has listed esports as an official sport and medals will be contested at 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.

As the second stop of the Girl-Gamer 2019 World Tour, the Girl-Gamer Esports Festival arrived in Seoul, South Korea on September 6, attracting four strong teams, two from China, and one each from South Korea and Singapore, PR Newswire said.

After a whole day of fierce competition, Team Charon from South Korea won the championship as well as the opportunity to represent Asia in the finals of the 2019 Girl-Gamer Esports Festival that will be held in Dubai later in December.

At that festival, nine teams which will include 45 female players will compete in the games of Counter-Strike Go and League of Legends for a prize of up to US$100,000 (S$138,000).

Via GirlGamer Esports Festival, the world's leading event to celebrate and promote women's competitiveness in esports, participants not only get the chance to show their strength, but also receive support and encouragement from male players.

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The situation where men would normally dominate the Chinese gaming market is gradually changing. The rising presence of female participants now extends to esports.

China's gaming market has entered a stage of in-depth development, and female users are becoming an increasingly important consumer group in that market, which has bolstered the growth of esports in China.

A survey released by the Game Publishers Association Publications Committee, known as GPC, and the Chinese gaming database Gamma Data Corp shows that there are 290 million female esports players in China by the end of 2018, an 11.5 per cent year-on-year increase from the prior year.

The RE-Girls esports club, which is made up of female professional full-time gamers, has become one of the most eye-catching of all-female esports teams since its foundation in June 2017.

The club's players have an average age of 20 and spent most of their time playing the popular games such as Honor of Kings, Player Unknown's BattleGrounds (PUBG) and Clash Royale.

"We have won all the championships in domestic women's competitions of the three games," said Xu Binzhen, co-founder of the club. "Before recruiting players, we had set high standards on their game skill levels and integrity because we aim to build a professional team that can prove female players can also reach the level of male players."

Coach Wang Yiling teaches tactics for the game Player Unknown's Battle Grounds to the team's women players. PHOTO: China Daily

Living in a 200-square-meter apartment in Yizhuang, in the southeast suburbs of Beijing, four young girls of the PUBG team that was set up several months ago quickly got used to the life of being professional esports players.

The apartment has become their dormitory, dining room and training area for the team and the other six girls who came earlier.

They usually get up at around 12 pm and begin group training under the guidance of their coaches at around 1 pm from Monday to Friday.

The training includes team battles that can last until 10 pm. The players and coaches will review their strategies and failures after the games are over for the day.

Before the weekend, the girls remain cut off from the world and concentrate on their computers.

During the short breaks between games, the girls also enjoy talking about fashion and leisure.

Several minutes later when they stare at their computer screen again, the meticulous professional players work for the only goal that matters to them - to be the champions.

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"It has nothing to do with gender," said Qian Yiqiu, 18 also known as Xin in the game PUBG. "We are all clear that it is teamwork and the most important is what you can do for your team."

As the youngest player in the club, Qian is now recognised as the best player in her team.

Qian gave up her college offer due to her family's financial situation and came to the club from her hometown of Suzhou, Jiangsu province, in June.

"I began to play shooter games in my first year in my senior high school and my mother didn't prevent me from playing," she said. "To reduce the burden on my family, I decided to become a professional player instead of entering college."

However, Qian's teammate Long Hongmin is not so lucky to get the support of her family.

Long, 23, came to the club after graduating from China West Normal University in June.

"I began to play PUBG in the university and became an anchor to play the game with fans after I bought my own computer," she said. "Some net friends of mine encouraged me to join in professional competitions."

Even though she was not all that confident, she had to try and posted a good result.

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She began her professional esports career in her last year in the university while her classmates were busy with graduation practice.

"I dared not tell my parents my present job because I am sure they will never agree," she said. "I just told them that I found a job related to my major in the university in Beijing."

Now Long is the team's commander-in-chief and has more than 10,000 fans on live streaming platforms.

After about 8 hours' training, the girls will go running in the residential area.

"It is a simple and effective way for physical exercise and relieving the pressure," said Li Muzi, the manager and founder of the RE-Girls. "Sometimes, failure in games may bring them into a bad mood, so they need a way to release their emotions."

Li, 25, was once a professional player of Honor of Kings in a domestic esports club and got the idea to found her own club when she had different opinions on the team's transition.

"When the team began to participate in more commercial activities that paid attention to appearances instead of skills, I decided to leave," she said. "Fortunately, I received support from some friends who became my co-founders later."

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They have the same idea that being competitive in games is of the utmost importance.

"Compared with male players, female players have a slight advantage in dealing with details while they seem a little weaker in facing mental challenges," said Li.

"There are no obvious gender differences in esports," said Xu. "Everything is based on strength and performance in the games. We have to seize every opportunity to participate in competitions that can help improve the level of our players."

"It is proverbial that esports players' professional career is shortlived, with body reflexes said to become dulled when they reach 21," said Li. "We are making an effort to develop related positions for those who are unwilling to leave the esports industry, such as game commentator and anchor."

Esports has made its name worldwide. In 2003, China has listed esports as an official sport.

Esports will be an official medal sport at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou after being added as a demonstration sport at the 2018 Asian Games, the Olympic Council of Asia announced in April.

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China's gaming industry generated sales revenue of 214.44 billion yuan (S$41.4 billion) in 2018, up 5.3 per cent year-on-year, a report from GPC and Gamma Data Corp said.

The report also said there were 626 million game players in China, an increase of 7.3 per cent from 2017.

Kenneth Fok, president of the Asian Electronic Sports Federation, told Xinhua after the 2018 Asian Games that the organisation was striving to build a bridge for esports to become a mainstream sport.

"In fact, esports has a broad audience and should be presented on a higher platform," he said. "Mature concepts and norms from the higher platforms - such as esports athletes also need self-discipline in regular life, strict training and diet - can guide esports to be more stable, better developed and accepted by more people and families."

Gamma Data noted in its report that among all players, more than half are aged under 25, with many born after 1995 and in the 2000s. Compared to those born in the 1990s, those born in the 2000s are more active in the game market.

"Esports is welcomed by young people and growing rapidly, so it's important to let the young people involved have their voices heard and to help them find their way in the profession," he said.