Chinese e-commerce behemoth Alibaba has shifted its focus to e-sports in a big way. The company has announced that it would launch a global e-sports tournament later this month with a big prize money of $5.5 million. The World Electronic Sports Games (WESG) will feature a variety of popular games such as Dota 2, Starcraft 2, Hearthstone, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.
AliSports to spend $15.4 million on WESG
Missing from the list of games is the extremely popular League of Legends, likely because it is owned by Alibaba’s arch-rival Tencent Holdings. The Hangzhou-based company has signed a deal with Singapore-based social networking platform YuuZoo to run its e-sports events in China, including the WESG. The global event that begins this month will finish off in December.
In September last year, Alibaba formed AliSports to expand its business in China’s lucrative sports industry. AliSports CEO Zhang Dazhong said in a statement that the company will spend a whopping $15.4 million on WESG alone. The gaming event will be run by YuuZoo’s Chinese arm YuuGames. E-sports involves players from across the globe playing video games before live audiences, which is broadcast over the Internet.
Alibaba diversifying its businesses
The huge prize amount itself makes it one of the hottest events for gamers. Crowdsourcing is going to add millions more to the $5.5 million prize money. According to SuperData Research, the e-sports industry was worth $747 million last year. It is expected to grow to $1.9 billion in 2018. Brand advertising accounts for 77% of the market, with the remaining made up by prize pools, ticket sales, e-sports betting, micro-tournaments, and merchandise sales.
AliSports plans to launch 1,200 e-sports events across 15 Chinese cities this year in partnership with YuuGames. Total e-sports viewership reached 188 million in 2015, turning teams and players into celebrities. Alibaba is aggressively diversifying its businesses and expanding in other markets like India to lower its reliance on the Chinese e-commerce sector. Analysts have expressed concerns that China’s cooling economy could affect consumer spending.