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The Honour of Kings World Champion Cup 2020 has a sparse audience at Beijing's Wukesong Arena on August 16 thanks to strict controls because of the coronavirus. Photo: Tencent

Honour of Kings Champion Cup gets first e-sports live audience in China since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic

  • Honour of Kings World Champion Cup 2020 only released 2,000 tickets for a stadium with a capacity of 19,000
  • It was the was the first major e-sports event to get a live audience in China this year while most international events still face delays

After going more than half a year without attending live games, e-sports fans in China were finally able to show up in person to the finals of one of the country's most popular tournaments.

The Honour of Kings World Champion Cup 2020 finals took place in front of a live audience in Beijing on Sunday. It was the first e-sports event with a live audience since the coronavirus outbreak spread across the country in January.
Attendees had to pass temperature checks and present their health codes before entering the event. Photo: Tencent

Thousands of people showed up to Wukesong Arena to see Dynamite Gaming defeat Turnso Gaming. Beijing held the championship and two e-sports conferences over the weekend as part of a government initiative to boost the city’s e-sports industry.

Fans were apparently eager to finally be able to watch e-sports live again, with tickets reportedly selling out within just eight minutes. But there was also another reason for this: You had to be a super fan to be allowed to buy a ticket in the first place.

Beijing was taking strong precautions to guard against the Covid-19 pandemic for the event. The city faced a second wave of Covid-19 cases in June, which resulted in 335 new cases at the time.

Part of these controls meant only letting Honour of Kings players purchase a ticket if they had a level 30 account – the highest achievable in the game. They also had to register with their real names and pass a screening from Beijing’s health code system, which is meant to measure someone’s level of risk of having contracted the virus. Once they showed up, attendees had to present a national ID card and pass a temperature check to be allowed into the stadium.

China wants to keep health codes after the pandemic but users aren’t so sure

So although Wukesong Arena has a capacity of 19,000, event organiser King Pro League (KPL) only released 2,000 tickets. KPL chairman Zhang Yijia told Beijing Youth Daily that real name registration was used to reduce risks involved with ticket transactions.

KPL had previously moved matches online during the coronavirus, which is how it initially planned to handle the Honour of Kings championship. But with the virus now largely under control in many areas of China, Zhang said the organisation decided to allow a limited live audience in response to the government’s call for boosting consumer confidence in Beijing.

KPL is one of many e-sports leagues that had to adapt to life under the pandemic. The spread of Covid-19 forced many e-sports events and tournaments around the world to move online or be cancelled or postponed. Market research company Newzoo estimates that the global e-sports market will generate US$973.9 million in 2020, down from the firm’s previous estimate of US$1.1 billion.