If the success of shows like Friday Night Lights—the football-centric American drama that aired for five seasons—is indicative of widespread enthusiasm for sports, the winning performance of a new television series about e-sports may prove audiences are, increasingly, similarly riveted by professional video gaming in China.
As of Wednesday, Youhug Media and Tencent Holdings’ CrossFire had racked up more than 980 million views in less than four weeks since it premiered on July 20, according to online video data and analysis platform Guduo Media.
Based on the popular South Korean first-person shooting game of the same name, CrossFire tells a coming-of-age story about two young CrossFire gamers—played by Chinese movie stars Lu Han and Leo Wu—trying to carve out a career in e-sports. The 36-episode web drama now has a score of 7.7 out of 10 based on more than 68,000 votes on popular rating site Douban.
The smash hit, streaming exclusively on Tencent Video, was released at a time of exponential growth for the e-sports industry in China.
According to a government-backed report published last month, e-sports revenue grew by almost 55% to RMB 71.9 billion (USD 10.3 billion) in the first six months of this year, while the number of e-sports consumers grew by about 10% over the same period to total 483.96 million.
“E-sports and competitive gaming are becoming more common across various entertainment media platforms in China,” said Daniel Ahmad, a senior analyst at Niko Partners.
According to Ahmad, CrossFire has been one of the most popular first-person-shooting games in China since its initial release in 2007. The franchise has grossed over USD 10 billion and at its peak, the game saw as many as 8 million players logging onto the game at the same time.
While riding on this popularity, the television series has also in turn helped boost interest in the game, Ahmad said. “CrossFire has seen an increase in revenue and downloads on mobile over the past two weeks, driven by the premiere of the CrossFire TV series, the 8.8 anniversary update and the recent CrossFire Mobile League Finals,” he said, adding that the game was the eighth highest grossing game for the week ending August 9.
Tencent, the world’s largest gaming company by revenue, is one of the main beneficiaries from the current e-sports frenzy in the country.
Other than CrossFire, the Chinese gaming giant is also working with Youhug Media and TJ Sports, its e-sports subsidiary, on another live action TV series based on the League of Legends Pro League (LPL), China’s most popular e-sports league.
This article was originally published in the South China Morning Post.