Chinese media, gaming and entertainment conglomerate Tencent has announced a five-year plan to fund into its esports venture. The amount is estimated to be nearly $15 billion, which includes building esports theme parks, investing into the futures of individual esports talent and franchising leagues, associations and tournaments for competition.
Tencent owns Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends, as well as 84 percent of Finnish mobile game developer Supercell. It is the largest gaming company by revenue in the world, making $21.9 billion in revenue as a whole during the 2016 calendar year, a 43 percent annual sales growth from their 2015 figure.
This new influx of funds coincides with Tencent’s assertion that, by the end of 2017, there will be about 335 million esports competitors worldwide, of which a majority — they estimate 220 million — living in China.
Previously, in May, Tencent had announced the construction of an esports university and theme park in the eastern Chinese city of Wuhu. That agreement also includes a plan to host a gaming competition in Wuhu in late 2017.
Additionally, Tencent’s popular mobile multiplayer online battle arena game, Honor of Kings, surpassed 50 million downloads earlier this year, and was the top grossing game worldwide in May of 2017.
Tencent Vice President and Film CEO Cheng Wu considers this to be the “golden age of gaming” — a new age that has culminated from the “Bronze Age” of single platform gaming from 1998 to 2007 and “Silver Age” of online gaming from 2008 to 2016.
The commercial value of China’s gaming industry is also gradually growing, with a growth in the number of recognizable players that are increasingly monetizing themselves through corporate sponsorship and exposure through various forms of media. China’s revenue from esports went up 52 percent this past calendar year, to $7.3 billion (50 billion yuan), according to Chinese market research firm International Data Corporation. This vast increase was due in large part to a surge in live-streaming partnerships, which has provided an incursion of viewers and dollars for the various esports leagues and tournaments across the country.
With Tencent’s recent investment, and their immense market share in the global economy, esports’ growth and development only seems to be on an upward trajectory.