(Bloomberg) — Tencent Holdings Ltd. pulled off a pair of successes for its League of Legends franchise over the weekend, with a raucous e-sports tournament that drew more viewers than ever before and the strong debut for a new video series on Netflix.
“Arcane,” an anime series based on the League fantasy universe, premiered to an overwhelmingly positive response, garnering 130 million views in China within a few hours and becoming the most searched item on Tencent’s streaming site. Globally, the show — co-created by the Tencent-owned game maker Riot Games Inc. — is streamed on Netflix Inc.’s service as well as Amazon.com Inc.’s Twitch.
A hit video-game show and the success of the e-sports tournament are a boost for Tencent, which is among companies trying to cope with Beijing’s crackdown on the industry. In August, Chinese authorities said children could play video games just three hours a week in most cases, hurting the stocks of Tencent and other companies.
Riot’s promotional push around “Arcane” included a live premiere event in Los Angeles and advertisements posted at bus stops around the city. Epic Games Inc., also partly owned by Tencent, even debuted a League hero in its hit Fortnite game.
Earlier in the weekend, the League of Legends World Championship hit a record of more than 4 million concurrent viewers tuning in, according to Esports Charts. That was without including audiences in China, which provided the winning team for this year’s event and where a replay of the match has been watched more than 11 million times on Tencent-backed Bilibili Inc. The streaming service said cumulative views of the finals night grew 20% from the previous year without disclosing the exact number.
After the victory by the Edward Gaming team, Chinese supporters erupted in cheers across bars and university campuses, with some even streaking. Videos of college students waving flags and chanting to celebrate the win spread rapidly online.
China’s Communist Party Youth League wasn’t impressed, saying that fans should react in a more rational way and that indecent exposure would land them in a detention center. “It is not worth it, nor is it right to violate laws and increase your own possibility to get infected with the virus,” the Sichuan Youth League said.
Chinese e-sports stocks surged after the event, with the tournament’s topic of the home team winning viewed more than 3 billion times on the microblogging site Weibo Corp. Dalian Zeus Entertainment and Hangzhou Electric Soul both rose by the 10% daily limit.
Long dominant as the go-to games publisher and platform within China, Tencent has invested heavily in expanding that lead into a wider entertainment ecosystem. The company is funding talent agencies, streaming sites — including its own version of Twitch for global markets, called Trovo Live — and tournament organizers to create the infrastructure necessary to turn pro gaming from a niche into an instrumental part of its growth.
Tencent Bets Billions on Gamers With More Fans Than NBA Stars
Key to the strategy is the mutually reinforcing effects of shows like Arcane benefiting from a huge built-in audience to gain notice and then using that notoriety to introduce more people to the game. League of Legends has more than 100 million players globally. Riot Games is also making clips from Arcane available for people to remix and create fresh online content with, effectively harnessing the game’s fan base to extend the promotional reach.
(Updates with reaction from Communist Youth League in seventh paragraph.)
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