The Chinese League of Legends scene is on a rampage this offseason, snatching up top talents left and right with the promise of highly lucrative contracts. Today, we learned why.
An article from Chinese-language magazine Portrait, translated to English by OnGamers, reveals some of the inner workings of the Chinese esports world and just how their organizations can afford to gobble up top talent.
Many Western fans like to call the Chinese scene the “wild west,” likening it to a region outside the law, bosses running organizations as they see fit, players little more than hired guns offering their services to the highest bidder, ready to change allegiances on a whim.
The article shows that assertion may not be far from the truth.
Portrait paints the scene as an unregulated mess, with a money infusion from rich esports fans and a bidding war between the four major streaming platforms for the top talents.
Players hold teams over the barrel with the threat of quitting competition for the relatively stress-free streaming life, where retired players like Wei “CaoMei” Han-Dong make over $800,000 a year streaming part-time—90 hours a month. Some streamers rake in over $1.6 million a year reportedly.
The lack of regulation for team transfers makes player poaching the norm, especially as “a huge wave of second-generation rich” inundate the scene with cash. Players will often suddenly become difficult to manage or lose motivation, a ploy to get released from their contracts to sign a more lucrative deal with a rival club.
The mountain of money is spilling off into neighboring regions. Chinese student Xing Liu, studying in Korea, serves as a go-between for many Korean League of Legends pros and Chinese streaming platforms, according to the article. They offer at a minimum $4,907 a month to stream on their platforms, apparently 50 percent higher than the average Korean pro gamer salary. Some top players even received offers of $163,573 per month—nearly $2 million a year. With numbers like that thrown around, it’s no surprise players like Bae “Dade” Eo-jin are moving to China during the peak of their careers.
A number of top clubs formed the Association of Chinese Esports (ACE) in February 2012, a Korean eSports Association-esque organization set up to regulate roster transfers between clubs. But World Elite’s Pei “King” Le, who runs the organization, talks like a battered man trying to keep the scene spiralling out of control in check. But he even admits he may be wrong—the Chinese esports bubble may not burst at all. The exponential growth shows no signs of slowing, after all.
Compared to the Western scene, where Riot Games and Valve exert more control over the esports product, China really does seem like wild west—one that’s struck it rich off the gold rush. But there’s only so much gold in the ground, right?
For more, check out the full article here.
H/T OnGamers | Photo via Riot Games/Flickr