Chinese esports player Zeng Zhuojun (middle), better known as Xiaohai, is crowned The King of Fighters XV champion at EVO 2023 in Las Vegas, the United States, on Aug 6. (Photo/CHINA DAILY)
More professional Chinese esports players are standing out on the global stage thanks to a booming domestic esports industry in China, said Kenji Matsubara, CEO of Japanese video game company SNK Corp, which runs well-known video games including The King of Fighters.
Matsubara made the remarks at a gala event held in Shanghai on July 28 by SNK together with Play Station and mobile streaming platform Migu. Top Chinese players including multiple world titleholder Zeng Zhuojun, better known as "Xiaohai" in gaming circles, met the press during the event before they were about to compete in the ultimate fighting game tournament EVO 2023 in Las Vegas, the United States, from Aug 4-6.
"China has many top players now, and they have achieved very good results in competitions around the world, which is really admirable," said Matsubara. "For example, Xiaohai, a very loyal player of The King of Fighters, is such a well-known professional player now," he added.
Arguably the all-time best fighting video game player in China, Zeng was introduced to arcade fighting games at the age of six before winning his first championship when he was just 12.
Having won nearly 80 titles to date, including world-class esports competitions and this year's EVO championship in Japan, 34-year-old Zeng was once again considered the title favorite for the Las Vegas event, and ended up winning the championship for The King of Fighters XV tournament once again.
"Their high expectations put me under a lot of pressure. Many world-leading players participated in the contest as well. To maintain the championship was my goal this time," Zeng said.
Matsubara recalled that he was impressed when Zeng won the EVO championship in Japan earlier this year.
"I thought players like Zeng, who have won so many crowns in the past, would no longer be nervous during any competition. However, he was nervous, because he places great importance and enthusiasm on winning the games he loves," Matsubara said, "I was deeply moved by his relief and joy after winning the championship."
According to the China Esports Industry Report from January to June 2023 that was released during the 20th China Digital Entertainment Expo and Conference, or ChinaJoy, in Shanghai, the overall revenue of China's esports industry in the first half was 75.99 billion yuan ($10.6 billion), an increase of 11.74 percent year-on-year.
The report pointed out that there were over 70 competitions attended by professional players at or above the provincial level in the first half.
The competitions have also shifted from online to offline, occupying 51 percent of the total events hosted.
And as of June, there were a total of 191 esports teams in China, of which Shanghai had the most with some 52 teams, the report said.
"More and more professional teams are being established in China to improve the skill level of the players, helping the Chinese players to have outstanding performances even on the global stage," Matsubara said.
The report further pointed out that China now has 487 million esports gamers thanks to the promotion of the top professional esports competitors in recent years.
This is in sharp contrast to 2019 when Zeng worried there were no other Chinese players to play in the world's elite class if he suffered losses on the international stage.
"To be honest, what I said at that time was really my true feelings. Although the words were controversial, they encouraged quite a few people (in China). Like the upcoming EVO competition in the US, there are four or five Chinese players who will attend the games along with me. I am not the only one anymore," Zeng said.
Matsubara said China has attached great importance to the esports market in recent years, so its esports market has "flourished to an astonishing level", providing huge opportunities for gaming companies such as SNK.
Matsubara further estimated that market growth would be further driven by the upcoming 19th Hangzhou Asian Games, which will be staged from Sept 23 to Oct 8, as esports is included as a medal discipline for the first time in the gaming history.
"SNK, as a company that is famous all over the world for its fighting games, hopes to engage in the Chinese market deeper ... and bring more top-level esports events to China," he added.