EXCLUSIVE:

The esports market in China is expected to grow to $1.26 billion in 2017, according to a new report from market researcher Niko Partners.

To put that number in perspective, another analyst firm, Newzoo, estimates that the global esports market will grow to $696 million this year. Clearly, the analyst firms use different methods. But Niko has been around a long time digging into the details of China’s game market.

The new esports report estimates there will be more than 200 million esports fans in China by the end of the year. It also says the total China tournaments purse payouts was $51 million in 2016, and that could grow to $64 million this year.

Mobile esports game tournaments will reach $9.5 million in 2017, up almost four times from $2.5 million in 2016. Livestreaming for esports gaming generated $476 million in 2016, and it will reach $625 million in 2017.

Niko Partners observed that Chinese professional gaming teams have earned cult-like status among millions of domestic gamers, and they are the leading contenders at most worldwide esports tournaments. China has five of the top 10 highest-grossing players in the world.

The growing popularity of esports has led to a resurgence in Internet cafe usage. Gamers play esports games and tournaments as I-cafés, and they also watch online streams of the country’s best players.

Social media has been a key driver of esports, and it has led to live broadcasting, sponsorships, and advertising.

Some of the most popular esports games in China include League of Legends, Dota 2, CrossFire, Clash Royale and Honor of Kings.

Niko Partners said it does not include games revenue within the esports category, as it is counted separately in other Niko estimates.

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