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China defeat Chinese Taipei on Sunday’s Arena of Valor tournament. (Picture: Asian Electronic Sports Federation/Weibo)

Twitch downloads skyrocket in China thanks to esports at the Asian Games

State broadcaster didn’t air China's victory in Arena of Valor

This article originally appeared on ABACUS

China loves esports. And nothing’s going to stop fans from watching their national team kick ass in the Asian Games… even if it’s not on TV or local streaming services.

On China’s iOS App Store, downloads for Twitch surged to number 3 among all free apps on Monday, up more than 300 spots from the day before. One Weibo user commented, “Twitch has been taken over by China.”
China defeat Chinese Taipei on Sunday’s Arena of Valor tournament. (Picture: Asian Electronic Sports Federation/Weibo)

This year’s Asian Games, held in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, is the first ever to feature esports as a demonstration sport. China got off to a good start on Sunday, beating Chinese Taipei to the Arena of Valor gold medal.

China takes first esports gold at the Asian Games in Arena of Valor

But on China’s internet, tempers ran hot as fans realized that CCTV -- China’s official Asian Games broadcaster -- wasn’t airing esports events.

“I’m angry just thinking of CCTV. I want to spit at them,” wrote one Weibo user.
The discovery prompted many to scramble for ways catch the highly anticipated three-day League of Legends tournament that began on Monday. China’s team includes one of the country’s hottest LoL players Uzi, a bot laner for Royal Never Give Up.
One Weibo user posted a screenshot from Twitch, saying “Look at me!!! Searched LoL on Twitch. This host is streaming in Chinese!”
China versus South Korea in Monday’s League of Legends tournament. (Picture: Asian Electronic Sports Federation/Weibo)
On China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo, news channel Sina Games has published a list of foreign websites that stream the competition, including Twitch and YouTube. It notes that some of these sites might require “scientific internet surfing” -- a term describing the use of VPN and other methods to scale China’s firewall to visit banned websites. The post has been shared over 1,700 times.
Another user on Weibo said, “As a big country, it’s a failure that people in China have to go to foreign platforms to watch their team play.”
Viewing on Twitch will likely be a novel experience for many in China. While it’s one of the world’s most recognizable game streaming sites, in China Twitch is nowhere near as popular as domestic giants Huya and Douyu. In the final quarter of last year, Huya had 610,000 monthly active streamers -- more than the 551,000 streamers on Twitch in December, according to the China Internet Report 2018.

There are some key differences between Twitch and Chinese streaming sites. For example, while Twitch only has a chatroom on the side of the screen, Douyu and Huya take it one step further by also splashing comments on top of gameplay -- resulting in something like this:

To be honest, I don’t know how people can tell what’s going on in the game when words are flying across the screen like this. (Picture: 青蛙/Huya)

As esports fans in China flock to Twitch for the Asian Games this week, they have more games to look forward to. StarCraft II will take center stage on Thursday, followed by Hearthstone on Friday and Pro Evolution Soccer 2018 on Saturday.

Watch Abacus stream games on Twitch!

For more insights into China tech, sign up for our tech newsletters, subscribe to our Inside China Tech podcast, and download the comprehensive 2019 China Internet Report. Also roam China Tech City, an award-winning interactive digital map at our sister site Abacus.