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Foreign capital swarming into Korean e-sports industry.

Foreign capital is increasingly pushing to invest in Korea's e-sports industry, seeking to tap into the country full of enthusiastic fans and talented young professional gamers, according to industry sources, Thursday.

Last week, the Korean branch of Riot Games, developer and publisher of the world's most popular computer online game "League of Legends," announced its plan to establish an e-sports stadium dedicated for the game's regional championship event, called the League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK).

The stadium, named the LCK Arena, will be established inside the Gran Seoul building in Jongno, central Seoul. Adding to a semicircular auditorium with more than 450 seats, the LCK Arena will also have locker rooms for the players as well as a mixed zone for media communication, just like an athletic stadium.

Riot Games Korea will lease the building space for the stadium and subsidiary facilities until 2029. The company said the rent alone is expected to reach tens of billions of won and will additionally spend more than 10 billion won to set up facilities and systems inside the stadium.

Under its long-term perspective for the e-sports business here, the company said it will also directly broadcast LCK events, hinting that it will make extra investments in establishing e-sports broadcasting infrastructure.

"The enthusiasm of professional players and support from fans has led the growth of the LCK and e-sports industry here," Riot Games Korea President Lee Seung-hyun said during a press conference in Seoul on Nov. 13. "Since 2012, we have invested about 30 billion won. We will continue to expand investment to foster League of Legends as an e-sport."

Riot Games is a 100 percent subsidiary of China's IT giant Tencent. Tencent made its first investment in Riot Games in 2011 when the game firm was just a small studio. After continuing to expand its share in Riot Games, Tencent acquired the last 7 percent share from Riot Games to expand its share to 100 percent.

In July this year, another China-based game firm Actoz Soft announced its plan to launch its own global e-sports contest brand, dubbed the World Esports Games and Leagues (WEGL) and pour in 50 billion won in it. Actoz Soft is a Korean subsidiary of Chinese game giant Wanda Group.

Actoz Soft has said its long-term plan is not just to operate a global e-sports contest but also to run a management agency business for professional gamers.

This came as a bold move for Actoz Soft to run its own international multi-sport event because the company doesn't provide major e-sports games.

Despite such concerns, the WEGL finals during the G-Star 2017 in Busan last week turned out to be a success, showing that a well-organized e-sports contest can be the "next big thing" at global game exhibitions.

U.S. game business mogul from Silicon Valley Kevin Chou has also made major investment in Korea's e-sports industry.

Chou established a professional e-sports club based in Seoul earlier this year to join the international regular e-sports league of Blizzard Entertainment's online shooter "Overwatch." Though the game company hasn't confirmed the exact number, the owners of e-sports clubs have had to pay more than 20 billion won to join the league.

Besides Chou's Seoul team, 11 teams based in major cities including New York, Los Angeles, London, Seoul and Shanghai have joined the league.

"Seoul has a special meaning in the history of e-sports," Choi said during a press conference in Seoul in August.

Chou said he was establishing an e-sports company called KSV eSports to operate full-fledged marketing, sales and player management systems. He also pledged to build training facilities and dedicated e-sports stadiums in Korea.

"I believe e-sports will create enormous value in the long run and I will continue to invest until then," he said. "Though I cannot specify amount the exact amount, I will make investments reaching tens of millions of dollars, aiming at generating profits in one or two years."

Amid aggressive drive of foreign-based enterprise in the e-sports market here, Korean companies have remained relatively passive in this sector. Currently, Korean firms including Samsung Electronics, SK Telecom, KT, Jin Air and Genesis BBQ are running professional gaming teams and sponsoring players.

Samsung Electronics launched an international gaming contest brand called the "World Computer Gaming" in 2000 as a part of its marketing activities. But the WCG stopped in 2013. Korean game firm Smilegate acquired the brand right to WCG and plans to reopen it next year.
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Publication:The Korea Times News (Seoul, Korea)
Geographic Code:9SOUT
Date:Nov 23, 2017
Words:841
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