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Members of Chinese esports team Edward Gaming hoist the Summoner’s Cup after winning the finals of the League of Legends World Championship on November 6, 2021, in Reykjavik, capital of Iceland. Photo: Riot Games via Getty Images

Chinese esports fans celebrate country’s latest world championship amid Beijing’s tightened controls on video gaming

  • Edward Gaming has become only the third Chinese team to win the esports industry’s coveted League of Legends World Championship finals
  • The Shanghai-based team also claimed the tournament’s pool prize money totalling US$2.225 million
On Saturday, hundreds of young esports fans packed a popular bar along the banks of Suzhou Creek in Shanghai to watch the broadcast of the 2021 League of Legends World Championship finals in Reykjavik, capital of Iceland.
These fans were among millions of others across the country who cheered that night for Edward Gaming (EDG), a professional esports team based in Shanghai, that competed against South Korea’s DWG Kia, the defending champion formerly known as Damwon Gaming, which won the title when the populous Chinese city hosted the tournament finals in 2020.

This year’s five-game world championship finals kicked off at 8pm local time and finished around 1am on Sunday. All the EDG fans who clapped, yelled and cheered throughout the night were rewarded with the team’s winning 3-2 score over its rival.

EDG hoisted the coveted winner’s trophy the Summoner’s Cup and claimed the pool prize money totalling US$2.225 million, as the group bested 21 other teams which took part in this year’s championship series, which started on October 5. EDG’s mid lane player, Lee “Scout” Ye-chan, received the Most Valuable Player award for the finals.

Hundreds of young esports fans gathered at a bar in Shanghai on the evening of November 6, 2021, to watch the finals of this year's League of Legends World Championship, which was won by China's Edgar Gaming team. Photo: Tracy Qu

“No one expected them to win,” said esports fan Jasmine Lu, who watched the championship finals at her home in Ningbo, a city in eastern Zhejiang province. “Nearly every prediction said they would lose the game. If I was still in university, I would’ve definitely yelled with others [to express happiness for EDG’s victory]. It’s like you proved all the doubters wrong.”

EDG, which represented China’s League of Legends Pro League, became only the third esports team from the country to win the world championship, which US developer Riot Games started hosting in 2011. EDG’s victory followed those of FunPlus Phoenix in 2019 and Invictus Gaming in 2018.

Established in September 2013, EDG was founded by esports tycoon Zhu Yihang. He is eldest son of Hopson Development founder Zhu Mengyi, who runs one of the five largest privately held property companies in southern Guangdong province.

While EDG’s world championship is welcome news to the country’s esports market, it comes at a time when China’s three-hour weekly video gaming restriction for players aged under 18 could potentially kill the country’s ambition to become a global powerhouse in this field.

Edward Gaming's Lee “Scout” Ye-chan is shown preparing to make his move as the Chinese esports team’s mid lane player at the League of Legends World Championship finals on November 6, 2021, held in Reykjavik, capital of Iceland. Photo: Riot Games via Getty Images
The National Press and Publication Administration, China’s top watchdog for gaming and other forms of online media, issued in August a new rule limiting gaming time for players under 18 to between 8pm and 9pm only on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and statutory holidays.
That would make it nearly impossible for the country’s esports sector to form and train under-18 groups of players, as well as sustain its growing domestic fan base. The restriction comes as esports will make its debut as an official medal event at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang province.

In esports, 18 is already considered a mature age for a player because most participants consider retirement early in their 20s. It is uncertain whether the Chinese government will make special arrangements for certified under-18 esports players to get sufficient training time. In a Chinese documentary called Little Giants, 21-year-old Zeng Guohao gave up his table tennis career to pursue a career in esports. His daily training typically extended past midnight.

The stakes are high for China in esports, a market with projected revenue surpassing 165.1 billion yuan (US$25.8 billion) this year. That includes income generated from games, tournaments and merchandising.

China’s love-hate relationship with video games puts sector in stormy waters

EDG’s world championship has sparked plenty of discussion on China’s social media. A related topic on Chinese microblogging platform Weibo has been viewed 630 million times as of Sunday noon. “We are the champions,” wrote one proud user.
Even China’s state media hopped on the world championship bandwagon on Sunday. State-controlled broadcaster China Central Television described the championship as a highlight in the country’s esports industry in a Weibo post.

China’s latest Summoner’s Cup win is expected to bolster the domestic esports market’s growth.

“Esports and video game viewership and participation in China is next level when compared to most [countries in] the West,” said Chris Smith, founder of market consultancy BIG Esports. “It’s obvious given the strong viewership figures year on year for the League of Legends [world championship] … that the fandom in the country is unreal and rivals that of any traditional sport in the West.”

Chinese esports clubs count many tycoons and business scions as owners. Wang Sicong, the son of billionaire Dalian Wanda Group founder Wang Jianlin, runs the former League of Legends world champion Invictus Gaming. Big Tech companies, including Bilibili and, also own professional esports teams.