The screams of 18,000 people packed into a Shanghai stadium swell to a crescendo. Slight of figure and mostly bespectacled, 10 young men take their seats in LED-lined boxes straight out of Tron, don headsets, lock thumbs onto giant smartphones – and the battle begins. At stake, a US$1.8mil (RM7.30mil) purse – and social media goliath Tencent’s role in a US$13bil (RM52.75bil) esports arena.
eSports is taking off globally but nowhere more so than in China: a nation of over 400 million gamers fuelling viewership comparable to US pro sports. At the heart of the world’s biggest gaming market is Tencent Holdings Ltd, which is betting 1bil yuan (RM598.40mil) a year that slugfests like Honour of Kings will ensure its primacy in the burgeoning market.