China wins bronze in League of Legends but all eyes on South Korea in gold-medal match

HANGZHOU, China — China’s League of Legends team hung on Friday to take bronze in the Asian Games esports event, overcoming a strong challenge from Vietnam.

Once talked about as possible contenders for the gold, China’s team was blanked Thursday by South Korea. The South Korean team was powered by Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok, a 27-year-old player known to most as the League of Legends GOAT — Greatest Of All Time.

South Korea’s League of Legends team has yet to lose a game in the tournament and takes on Taiwan later Friday in the gold-medal match.

As the global games market continues to boom in numbers of players and revenue, esports took its place this year at the Asian Games as a competition sport for the first time and so far it has been an audience favorite. It is the only event for which organizers have had to introduce a lottery system for tickets.

The esports competition features five PC games and two mobile games, covering both multiplayer online battle arena, or MOBA, and single-player genres.

League of Legends is one of the most popular games, where two teams of five champions face each other in a bid to destroy the other’s base.

The purpose-built 4,500-seat esports arena was packed for the afternoon game between China and Vietnam, with onlookers watching the gamers on a circular stage below, and following the action on massive television screens above.

Some dressed as League of Legends champions as they cheered on their team.

Vietnam’s team came out strong in the first game of the best-of-three series. China took out the first champion in the second game and dominated most of the play to take the win and even the score at 1-1.

The deciding match went back-and-forth, with China off to an early strong start. Vietnam battled back, sending a hush into the hometown crowd. It wasn’t until about 28 minutes into the game that China was able to effectively push ahead on the offensive, in a surge that drew wild cheers from the onlookers who excitedly waved multi-colored LED sticks in the darkened room as their team powered on to the win and the bronze medal.

Esports was first featured at the last Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, as a demonstration sport and proved incredibly popular so was added to the competition this year in Hangzhou.

In addition to League of Legends, the lineup consists of: Arena of Valor Asian Games Version (also known as Honor of Kings); Peace Elite Asian Games Version (also known as PUBG Mobile); Dota 2; Dream Three Kingdoms 2; Street Fighter V: Champion Edition; and EA Sports FC (also known as FIFA Online 4).

Competition forms vary with the genre but gold medals will be awarded for each game.

China took gold on Tuesday in Arena of Valor, with Thailand winning gold in EA Sports FC on Wednesday and South Korea winning gold in Street Fighter V on Thursday.

Newzoo, a research company that specializes in tracking the global games market, projected in its annual analysis released last month that the number of players worldwide will reach 3.38 billion in 2023, up 6.3% year-on-year. Annual revenues are expected to grow 2.6% to $187.7 billion.

The International Olympic Committee has looked longingly at the potential of video gaming and virtual sports to help attract and stay relevant with young audiences, and created a formal esports commission this month with a focus on virtual sports.


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