Jay Chou participating in LoL

How China’s Popstars are Cashing in on Esports

The marriage of Chinese musicians with the hottest esports games means everyone’s a winner

Despite being released over six months ago, Hong Kong singer Eason Chan’s track “Lonely Warrior (《孤勇者》),” is still hovering around the top of the charts on NetEase’s music app. After spending three months at the top spot on its release last November, it’s become a viral hit among primary school children across China, and is pushing 30 million views on streaming site Bilibili.

For once, this is not just due to Chan’s status as a Mandopop legend, which has made his tracks a staple of karaoke evenings across the Sinosphere. Instead, video game fans are driving the track’s popularity, specifically the 130 million Chinese people who have watched the anime TV series Arcane, for which “Lonely Warrior” is the theme tune. Released through Tencent, the TV series tells the story of two champions from the video game League of Legends (LoL) living through a time of chaos. It has already made a splash on the mainland, recording an incredible 9.0 out of 10 on ratings site Douban.

Ten years on from LoL’s release in 2009, the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game is the most-played video game in the world, with over 180 million monthly players in 2022 globally. Chinese servers host 75 million monthly players, making up around 40 percent of the worldwide total, with the second largest region—Western Europe—coming in at a distant 21 million. Over twenty years after the internet spread in China and internet cafes boomed, the country is now the largest esports (professional competitive gaming) market in the world and musicians like Chan are increasingly tapping into the vast numbers of online gamers by partnering with their favorite games to market songs and investing heavily in esports teams.

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author Asian Pop Weekly

Established in 2010, Asian Pop Weekly is one of the only English-language platforms that specialises in reportings on Mandarin popular music. Informed by a multitude of disciplines and perspectives both practical and theoretical, diverse and with an ear to the ground; APW exists between cultural, disciplinary, and national boundaries precisely to demonstrate the possibilities that exist when you look beyond cultural differences. APW is obsessed with the notion of bringing Mandarin and Asian music to the world as a means of bridging cultural divides; unearthing the best of what the scene has to offer and presenting it to English-speaking audiences in ways that intrigue yet foster understanding.

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