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All Chinese cities, organizations, and individuals continue to fight against the coronavirus outbreak, which has now been named COVID-19 by the World Health Organization (WHO). Since the outbreak, Chinese and Western game publishers have donated heavily to Wuhan and other Chinese cities. Since Feb. 10, most Chinese citizens have returned to their place of work, but the majority of them are still working from home.
Chinese industries are slowly turning their engines back on, including esports. Though multiple esports events and tournaments have been delayed or canceled in the country, the Chinese Dota 2 esports community is looking forward to the ESL One Los Angeles Major Chinese qualifier, but there are still challenges that teams need to face, such as potential visa issues.
Among the top stories: Tencent invested ¥1.5B RMB ($215M USD) to establish a “Coronavirus War Chest” foundation; South Korean game publisher Smilegate donated ¥10M ($1.43M) to Chinese authorities to combat the coronavirus; livestreaming platform Huomao will host the ESL One Los Angeles Major Chinese qualifier, and esports organization Vici Gaming has confirmed it will not to attend.
In other Asia Pacific (APAC) news, Riot Games Korea updated the player regulations for League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK), which might affect the player trade between China and South Korea; and six Japanese companies invested 300M JPY ($2.73M) to set up a joint esports company called NTTe-Sports.
Every week The Esports Observer presents the biggest esports business news in China including investments, acquisitions, sponsorships, and other major news from the region.
Tencent Establishes $215M Foundation for Fighting Coronavirus, Smilegate Donates $1.43M to China
On Feb. 7, Chinese tech-giant Tencent announced that the company would invest ¥1.5B ($215M) to establish the “Coronavirus War Chest” foundation for fighting the current novel coronavirus outbreak. The foundation will include materials and equipment resources, technology support, medical staff care, and science support for R&D.
Among the $215M funding, Tencent will bring ¥300M ($43M) to the individuals who are on the front lines of the outbreak, including but not limited to medical staff, police, sanitation workers, building workers, journalists, and front-line volunteers. All Tencent divisions, including Wechat, Tencent Video, and Tencent Esports have posted this announcement on their social media accounts.
Meanwhile, South Korean game publisher Smilegate, the publisher of CrossFire and Tencent’s partner, announced that the company would donate ￥10M ($1.43M) to Chinese cities for fighting coronavirus, through the Chinese embassy in Korea. In addition, Smilegate donated masks and disinfectants for South Korean citizens who returned to South Korea from Wuhan.
And in related news, on Jan. 31, it was announced that Smilegate would close down servers for its tactical shooter CrossFire in its home market of South Korea, on March 3. Despite grossing over $1B last year, the game was mostly successful in the Chinese market, through a licensing partnership with Tencent.
Vici Gaming Will Not Attend ESL One Los Angeles Major, More Potential Visa Challenges for Chinese Teams
On Feb. 12, China finally welcomed a new esports event: the ESL One Los Angeles Dota 2 Major Chinese qualifier. This is an online-only competition and co-hosted with the Chinese livestreaming platform Huomao.
On Feb. 8, Chinese esports organization Vici Gaming (VG) announced that the organization will not attend the ESL One Los Angeles Major due to the coronavirus and needing to provide its players with rest. VG finished the DreamLeague Leipzig Dota 2 Major in third place last month, and is ranked number two out of all teams in the Dota Pro Circuit 2019-2020.
While VG chose not to attend the tournament, other organizations may still face visa challenges by the U.S. government. On Feb. 11, Chinese tournament organizer Mars Media posted an article on its social media Weibo, and predicted that Chinese teams may not be able to attend the tournament in Los Angeles due to visa complications.
In a public statement on Feb. 1, U.S. Health Secretary Alex Azar said the government would deny entry to any foreign nationals who have visited China in the past two weeks, and if any U.S. citizens are returning from Hubei province, they will be quarantined for 14 days. For VG, four out of its five players come from Hubei.
The Chinese qualifier will conclude on Feb. 17, and three Chinese teams are expected to be qualified to the live ESL One Los Angeles Major event. The Esports Observer has reached out to ESL for comment on this situation and will update it as soon as possible.
Riot Games Korea Updates LCK Regulations – Teams Can Not Trade Players Without Permission
On Feb. 5, Riot Games Korea updated the player regulations for League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK). According to the announcement, every LCK team can not trade the player without permission from that person. In addition, If the age of the player is between 17-19, teams have to discuss the player contract with their legal guardians. The goal of this update was to protect the rights of players in the LCK.
This change could potentially affect the player transfer market between China’s League of Legends Pro League (LPL) and the LCK. In fact, there are more South Korean players competing in the LPL than in any other league outside of South Korea—18% of the total 122. Although it should be noted that the LPL has more teams than any other league (17, instead of the standard 10).
Notable examples include the 2018 League of Legends World Championship winner Invictus Gaming, which has two players from South Korea, and the 2019 champions FunPlus Phoenix (FPX), which has three players from South Korea. One of these players, Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang, became the first South Korean player to receive residency in the LPL.
Six Japanese Companies Establish a $2.73M Esports Joint Venture
According to The Japan Times, six Japanese companies established an esports joint venture, NTTe-Sports, which capitalized at 300M JPY ($2.73M) and will be based in Tokyo. The venture will provide high speed and large capacity internet environments for esports events, while also operating esports facilities, and distributing video content. In addition, NTTe-Sports will open an esports facility at Akihabara UDX after July.
Four of the six Japanese companies are under the wing of Japan’s largest telecommunication brand Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp (NTT), and NTT’s east Senior Executive Vice President Naoki Shibutani will serve as president of NTTe-Sports.
Editor’s note: Due to the novel coronavirus pneumonia outbreak, and the slowdown of China’s esports industry, we are also bringing you business news from other countries in the APAC region at this time.
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