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China's Alibaba makes play for growing e-sports sector

by April 1, 2016 General

April 2, 2016, 12:03 am TWN

SINGAPORE — Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba will kick off a global e-sports tournament this month, with big prize money up for grabs, as the Internet powerhouse makes a play for the fast-growing industry.

Alibaba signed an agreement this week with Singapore-based social networking firm YuuZoo to run the firm’s e-sports events in China, including the AliSports World Electronic Sport Games (WESG) kicking off at the end of April and which will offer a total of US$5.5 million in prize money.

Formed in September, AliSports is spearheading Alibaba’s bid to boost its share of China’s lucrative sports industry, which is forecast to grow to US$814 billion by 2025.

“Sports is a multi-billion dollar business in China, with massive growth potential. That is why Alibaba is investing heavily in this vertical,” AliSports chief executive Zhang Dazhong said, according to a statement on the YuuZoo website.

Marking its entry into the e-sports arena, AliSports will spend US$15.4 million alone for the WESG — which will be run by YuuZoo’s Chinese venture YuuGames — that will see players from across the world compete in games like Dota 2, CSGO, StarCraft 2 and Hearthstone.

E-sports generally refers to video game competitions, which like athletic sporting events can be played before live audiences and broadcast over the Internet.

It dates back to video games played in arcades in the 1980s, gradually growing into bigger tournaments as faster Internet connections allowed players to compete with each other wherever they are in the world.

“We are confident that we can make Alibaba’s World Electronic Sport Games a hugely successful and leading event in China’s massive gaming market,” said YuuZoo and YuuGames chairman Thomas Zilliacus.