After stumbling around for about two decades, the e-sports industry in China is expecting a boom in 2016, with a billion yuan having been invested into the industry. New e-sports businesses have risen, emerging as chances for former professional players like Sky to extend their influence in exchange for years of playing games as a career.
Li Xiaofeng, better known to his fans as Sky, is a legendary e-sports player in China, famous for winning the World Cyber Games’ Warcraft 3 championship in 2005 and 2006. In 2015, at the age of 30, he announced his retirement as a professional player to focus on his startup, which was founded in 2014. This company, named Taidu, is a gaming peripherals R&D and manufacturing company.
On Monday, it announced that it has completed RMB 50 million in the series A round led by Prometheus Capital, which is owned by Wang Sicong, the son of China’s richest man, Wang Jianlin. Prior to this, it received RMB 10 million in a Pre-A round last July.
Right now, its only product is a smart mouse introduced last year, which was specially made for gamers. It can monitor heart rate to help analyze the psychological status of gamers during a competition. The mouse is priced at around RMB 300. Having sold tens of thousands of mice, Taidu has out-sold many local manufacturers.
With this new round of financing, the company will cooperate with other channels, besides its own website and JD.com, to bring its product to more users. Besides e-commerce platforms, companies backed by Wang Sicong could be possible channels for promoting their products, including his chain of cyber cafes and his gaming live stream platform Panda TV.
This company may have an edge over large companies like Logitech and Razer due to Sky’s years of experience in playing games, meaning he can produce products that would better suit gamers. Another advantage is Sky’s personal branding and popularity as a poor and untalented nobody who made his way up to WGC champion.
E-sports budded in 1998 in China, a time when cyber bars were springing up, with gaming competitions including CS and StarCraft becoming popular with players. Sky, a junior high school student born in a poor family with several siblings, started his path in gaming in 1998 by sneaking out of his house and playing all night at cyber bars. Back then, the public responded to gaming in an overwhelmingly negative way, including Sky’s family.
Faced with strong objection from his family and even beaten by his father many times, he wasn’t deterred from his obsession. But unfortunately, this didn’t get him any further in gaming competitions. Once he nearly committed suicide after being hammered by several rounds of failures.
E-sports made it big in 2003, when it was officially named as China’s 99th sporting event. With Chinese players becoming known in international competitions for games like CS and WarCraft 3, e-sports clubs emerged. Sky was invited to a club in Beijing in 2004, the same year that e-sports-related shows were banned by SARFT.
An experienced player who is a friend of Sky said he is barely talented, but no one is as diligent as him, which finally brought him success as the first WCG champion from China. His success was very exciting for the Chinese e-sports industry. However, the economic crisis in 2008 and its aftermath led to an ebb in this industry until the late half of 2011. In this year, the famous rich kid Wang Sicong, who later built an empire in this industry, entered the world of e-sports by forming his own team of professional players.
Later, the industry had an upward trajectory with the popularity of two online games, LOL and Dota 2, until in 2014, it embraced an explosive growth with a variety of tournaments and gaming live stream platforms emerging. Under the circumstances, professional players were able to make good use of their experience to make money. Sky was once the manager of the first eSports club in China, a gaming commentator, and also a popular gaming streamer.
(Top photo from news.163.com)