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Zapping e-sports' talent shortage

By SHI FUTIAN | China Daily | Updated: 2019-06-24 09:10
The term e-sports refers to the sporting competition between people with the help of computer games. [Photo/IC]

Booming sector overflowing with opportunities in operational roles

As e-sports' inexorable rise continues, there is no shortage of gamers vying to join its lucrative pro ranks. The industry, however, is still struggling to fill the type of operational and support positions that keep its ever-expanding wheels turning.

The dearth of manpower was highlighted in a report released at the Global E-sports Summit and Tencent E-sports Annual Conference last Thursday in Boao, Hainan province.

According to the 2019 Global E-sports Development Report, there are an estimated 150,000 job vacancies, covering over 100 occupations, waiting to be filled in the sector.

The report pinpointed a pressing need for talent in tournament organization, media content production, business operation, marketing and technology support.

"After two decades of development, the Chinese e-sports market is embracing its best opportunity of growth," said Ren Yuxin, chief operating officer of Tencent.

"Now more and more people are joining the e-sports industry, and that's why the sector is growing to be more solid and marching toward a brighter future."

According to the report, about 71,000 people worked in the Chinese e-sports industry until the end of 2018, while only 26 percent of roles have enough manpower.

The talent shortage comes as the sector continues to boom. Last year, the Chinese market was worth 8.5 billion yuan ($1.2 billion), with that figure expected to exceed 13 billion yuan by the end of 2019.

E-sports' fan base is also snowballing. In 2018, there were about 320 million gamers and fans in China, a figure that is projected to rise to 350 million by the end of this year. Globally, it's estimated that e-sports fans will exceed 450 million by 2019.

"We have all witnessed the rapid development of e-sports in recent years, but we still recognize that there are stereotypes and biased opinions of e-sports," said Kenneth Fok, president of the Asian Electronic Sports Federation. "So, there is a lot more work to be done to ensure the healthy development of the industry."

Professional e-sports clubs these days are slickly run operations that require expertise beyond the nimble-fingered skills of their geeky stars.

Take top Chinese team Royal Never Give Up (RNG), for example. Players like Jian Zihao, aka Uzi, boast vast support teams comprised of match analysts, translators and therapists.

The club has its own logistics, marketing and public relations departments-based in Shanghai-and its own home stadium, in Beijing.

The vastness of its operation is remarkable considering that, when the club was formed six years ago, RNG players practiced in residential buildings and played competitions in internet bars or warehouses.

Nowadays, RNG's allure even extends beyond the on-screen action.

In May, the club hosted an e-sports-themed debate tournament in Beijing, which it claimed was the first of its kind in history. The 28-day event attracted 15 domestic and international university debate teams.

"It's actually a very cool experience to debate e-sports-related topics at RNG's stadium," said Guo Hangchu, a debater for Fudan University.

"Through the tournament, I improved my knowledge of the e-sports sector and it also challenged stereotypes of the sport.

"When I graduate, I will look for opportunities to work in internet companies. Maybe one day, I will join the e-sports sector myself, not as a gamer but as someone who supports the stars behind the scenes."

Meanwhile, e-sports continues to receive support from local governments in China, with Hainan the latest to get on board.

The island province announced at Thursday's summit that it will launch a 'Thousand Talents Program' to provide preferential policies for e-sports talents to base themselves in Hainan.

Xi'an in Shaanxi province also offers similar policies, with the city this year hosting two grand finals for domestic and international competitions of Tencent mobile hit Honor of Kings.

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