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China’s Esports Professionals: Long Hours and Low Pay, But Love for the Job

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China’s esports players aren’t to be underestimated. Although their profession was only officially recognized by the government earlier this year — along with “esports operators,” those who organize events or produce esports content — Chinese teams have already accomplished a number of impressive feats, including raising the 70-pound Summoner’s Cup at the 2018 League of Legends World Championship.

Invictus Gaming Become China’s First Ever “League of Legends” World Champions

To better understand the prospects and problems of this bourgeoning industry, SuperGen Edu and Tencent Esports recently released the “2019 China Esports Talent Development Report” (2019年度中国电竞人才发展报告), surveying over 3,700 esports workers. Below are key takeaways from the study:

Overview

By the end of 2018, there were 71,000 people employed in esports-related jobs. According to Tencent’s survey results and growth estimates, this number will reach 331,500 in 2019 — an increase of over 450%.

Long Work Hours

Because events are typically held on the weekends, overtime isn’t uncommon. Nearly three-quarters of the surveyed esports insiders work more than 40 hours per week, with 15.5% clocking in a grueling 60 hours. Given the rise of 996 work culture in other tech sectors, these long work days probably shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Competitive SalarIES

Well, “competitive” is a relative term. 60% of respondents reported making less than 100,000RMB (about 14,500USD) a year. This is low compared to the average annual salary of the broader tech industry, which comes out to 21,423USD, but on par with the pay of white-collar workers (1,195USD/month or 14,340USD/year), and higher than that of Shanghai residents who, the study notes, made an average of 9,850USD in 2018. Almost half of the respondents saw wage increases in the past year.

Job Satisfaction

90% stated they are satisfied with their job. Interestingly, “job intensity” ranks lowest on the list of factors affecting job satisfaction, which the report partly attributes to the young age of esports workers (majority of respondents are in their 20s).

LACK OF TRAINING and management

The Karate Kid had Mr. Miyagi. Bruce Lee had Ip Man. Good education is the key to students reaching their full potential. And respondents agree — 89% recognize the necessity of job training. However, less than one-quarter of respondents have actually received relevant training or education.

Out of those who studied esports, only a quarter felt like the content they learned in class met their expectations, with the time put toward esports activities actually amounting to less than 5 hours a week. Only 29% of the respondents said they will go into esports after graduation.

Besides a more practical curriculum, another thing the industry needs is more management talent. More than half of the respondents have worked in the industry for fewer than three years and, in turn, more than half of them hold non-management positions in their companies. However, there is hope: many said if they do enter the industry, they’d want to either be in management or compete.

While esports in China is booming, generating a whopping 6.3 billion USD in revenue in 2018, government regulations aren’t making its growth smooth. From banning games featuring blood, poker, and the country’s imperial past to sanitizing big battle royale titles like PUBG, the increasing red tape could mean big changes to the gaming landscape in the next few years.

For the full scoop on the current issues facing China’s gaming industry, tune in to the latest episode of Digitally China here:

Digitally China Podcast: Hope and Despair in the World’s Largest Gaming Market

Cover: Flickr

Julienna Law
    Julienna Law is a recent graduate of the University of Southern California. In her free time, she likes designing graphics, studying Chinese, and listening to the seven loves of her life, K-pop group BTS.

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