A Game of Survival for Chinese Esports SMEs and Freelancers – The Esports


As obvious as it sounds, the fact that esports can be played indoors without human-to-human interaction has given it a leg up over traditional sports during the coronavirus pandemic. While the strength of the internet determines how widely it can be played, the games can still be watched in every place around the world. 

Overall, esports has five advantages against the negative impact of the pandemic: no physical contact, small space requirements, a virtual playground, low equipment costs, and an online “sideline.”

During the pandemic, most of the major tournament organizers, such as Tencent, TJ Sports, and Riot Games have operated remote-online games, without live audiences. This strategy has allowed esports passively to become the “only sport” in the world. However, this is just one fortunate upside, as the pandemic is also killing small and medium esports enterprises (SMEs), and endangering the livelihood of freelancers.

COVID-19 Pandemic: “Hell’ for Esports SMEs and Freelancers  

Credit: Yicun Liu/ FunPlus Phoenix

Approximately 99% of businesses are small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), according to the European Union. Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba Group, defined the company’s mission in 1999 “to make it easy to do business anywhere,” and said that he has serviced millions of Chinese SMEs. Just like other industries in China, esports SMEs play an important role in the ecosystem. 

In the big picture of China’s economy, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, China’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has decreased by 6.8% in Q1. The pandemic has led to millions of job losses in the last three months, and the Chinese esports industry is no exception. 

Ironically in January, China News and People’s Daily recognized a 500K talent gap in the Chinese esports industry. Now, thousands of esports professionals have lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

“I don’t want to leave [or get fired] either, but what else can I do?” Miss Li, a former operation specialist for an esports tournament organizer, told The Esports Observer “Many young workers like me were laid off from the company, but I understand it’s a tough time and my boss’s decision.”

During the pandemic, plenty of esports SMEs decided to fire their employees to cut labor costs. Some employees who still remain in their positions, would be furloughed with 70% of their original salary. 

“The labor cost and the venue rental are fixed charges,” an owner of a small tournament organizer (who asked not to be identified) told The Esports Observer, “We don’t want to ‘fire’ them either. I spent over one year to build the team.”

For most owners and employees of SMEs, the pandemic has hammered their businesses and career aspirations. “I still want to chase my dream in esports, otherwise my previous career…



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