According to Hamari and Sjoblom (2017), eSports are the types of sports whose primary aspects are controlled by the electronic devices and systems. ESports have developed over the years and has become a valuable industry in the recent years due to the advancement in technology. According to collective data, the total revenues of eSports in 2017 was $696 million, and the expected value will be $1.488 billion in 2020. The eSports audience is also growing at a faster rate because of the advent of smartphones and personal computers all over the world. In 2017, the total audience of eSports was 385 million, and this number is expected to be 589 million in 2020 (Newzoo, 2017). The largest eSport market is in China. The management of the eSports becomes an issue of concern because of the huge market value. The traditional management of sports involved tasking a ministry or authority in the government to manage the sports. Such type of management helps in the control of the sports improving the sports in general.
In 2003, the Chinese National Sports Department announced that eSports had become the 99th official sport (Liu, 2016). The management of the traditional sports is left to the field of business dealing with sports and recreation (Gabriel & Alina, 2014). There is a difference between the stream platform and the recreation of the traditional sports, therefore the eSports focuses mainly on the on the internet stream platform while traditional sports are focusing on TV. ESports is mainly based on the individual team whereas the traditional sports are based on a whole team alliance. The management maturity level between eSports and traditional sports management is different.
ESports is the abbreviated form of ‘Electronic Sports’. The term was firstly and formally used by Mat Bettington, an Eurogamer evangelist and it was in a press release on the launch of the Online Gamers Association in 1999 (Soumokil, 2006). With the development and prevalence of eSports, various scholars and practitioners engage in the research with respect to eSports. According to Wagner (2006), eSports is an area of sport activities. During the process of participating in the activity, people confront other participants under the specific rules in the virtual world. With the help of information and communication technology, people train their will and physical ability in playing eSports. From the perspective of use and gratification theory, Weiss (2011) points out that, the competitive, challenging and virtual eSports positively attract the attention and interests of people. What is more, with the professionalizing development of eSports, more and more scholars begin to attach importance to the audiences who are interested in watching other people play online games. In Why Do People Watch Others Play Video Games, Sjoblom and Hamari (2016) investigate the reason why people prefer to watch others play video games through a questionnaire study. The study shows that five classes of gratification such as personal integrative needs, tension release, and social demands are closely related to the time that people spend in watching streamers play video game. In Content Structure is King, Sjoblom et al. (2017) mainly focus on the relationship among video game genres, viewer gratification in live gaming and content type. On the basis of carrying out an online questionnaire study which 1097 people participated, Sjoblom et al. (2017) conclude that, the medium is the message, and the archetypal structure is much more important than the content topic. Furthermore, in Why Do Audience Choose to Keep Watching on Live Video Streaming Platforms, Hu et al. (2017) further discuss the reasons for people’s continuous behavior of watching others play video game. Through conducting an online questionnaire among live video streaming platform audiences in Douyu TV and YY Live, two platforms in mainland China, Hu et al. (2017) find that, the reason why people continually watch others play video game is because their identification with audience groups and broadcasters.
In general, prior researches mainly pay attention to the industry of eSports, the development of eSports and the reason why people are interested in eSports. When it comes to the Chinese eSports industry, many Chinese scholars attach importance to the background, the present situation and strategies as well as the development way of eSports industry in China (QIAN, 2015; WU, 2018; YANG et al, 2014;). In other words, few scholars focus on the improvement of management of eSports industry in China,
The importance of research
As a type of sport, eSports can train and improve participants’ critical thinking ability, reaction capacity, coordinate ability and team spirit. In this way, the positive role of eSports is accepted and acknowledged by more and more people. This research is important because of the reasons as follow.
In the first place, this research fills the gap that prior researchers pay few attentions to the management of eSports industry in China. Through demonstrating and analyzing the mature ways of traditional sports management, the research seeks to provide useful suggestions for the development of eSports industry in China, which can promote the rapid and rational development of the industry.
In the second place, the research is necessary since the development of Chinese eSports industry faces with various challenges. Even though eSports was listed as one of 99 officially recognized sports in China as early as in 2003, the development of Chinese eSports industry was extremely for years afterwards. People’s concerns such as Internet gaming addiction made it difficult for gamers and eSports clubs to participate in high-level international competitions due to the lack of sponsorship (Liu, 2016). What is more, the research and development of eSports products take high cost and long time. However, many Chinese eSports companies seek quick success and instant benefits, which make them invest little time and money in product research. In other words, original technology is lacking in Chinese eSports industry (Lu et al., 2010). Furthermore, compared to other sports items such as swimming and table tennis, the players of eSports have no specialized instructor and training venues (Lu et al., 2010). These problems limit the further development of Chinese eSports industry, and it is necessary to carry out related researches to solve these problems and provide suggestions for improving the management of Chinese eSports industry.
In general, there is a huge gap between the traditional sports and the eSports. The management of the traditional sports tends to be more professional. The research therefore seeks to bridge the managerial gap between the management of the conventional sports and the management of the eSports and give the ways which the traditional sports management can be inculcated in the eSports.
Research aims and questions
The research seeks to find out useful ways of traditional sports management that Chinese eSports industry can learn from. Specifically, it is necessary to firstly figure out current management of Chinese eSports industry and its negative impact. What is more, the research aims to collect essential data about the successful experience of managing traditional sports. Hence it comes to the problem statement:
What factors that Chinese eSports industry can learn from traditional sports to improve the efficiency and maturity of eSports management?
Furthermore, the core research question is how traditional sports management can be applied to eSports management in China. Then the related questions to the problem statement are as follow:
- What is the present management of Chinese eSports industry?
- What are the negative impacts of present eSports management?
- What are the successful experiences of traditional sports management?
- How to further develop Chinese eSports industry?
Multiple methods will be employed for the sake of examining how Chinese eSports industry can learn from traditional sports management, including interviews with managers of Specific Football Club, Basketball Club and Tennis Club; interviews with Chinese game players of eSports; interviews with owners and tournaments operators, and online questionnaires aiming at audiences and fans of eSports. In addition, secondary research will also be employed in the research.
I believe that in-depth interviews of managers in traditional sports clubs would provide unique insights for the development of eSports industry today. 3 managers will be interviewed using a semi-structured interviewing approach. According to the actual situation, the interviews can be conducted by telephone or in person. Moreover, three general topic areas are probed: (1) how the clubs and athletes are managed and what shall be paid more attention; (2) is it the best way to manage the clubs and athletes; (3) is it useful for other sports items such as eSports to learn from the way of management. Football, basketball and tennis are three traditional sports, which have mature management mode and extensive mass foundation. Through communicating with the managers of these traditional sports clubs, it is very likely for me to get the answer that how traditional sports industries are managed, what their successful experience is, and whether or not eSports industry can learn from. In addition, the interviews will last between 30 minutes and an hour, and audio record is also essential (Jamshed, 2014).
Since it is much easier to interview game players than the managers in traditional sports clubs, I will invite 6 game players to join in the interviews. The 6 game players can be divided into two types, professional game players who depend on play eSports for their livelihood and retired professional game players. Similarly, a semi-structured interviewing approach will be adopted as well because of its flexibility (Alshenqeeti, 2014). The general topic areas focus on: (1) why they are interested in playing eSports; (2) how do they improve their skills and abilities; (3) what are the shortcomings of current eSport management; (4) what do they think of traditional sports management. Every interview will be controlled in one hour and recorded by telephone. As the major participants of the industry, the voices of professional game players are indispensable. It is the professional game players who have to obey the rules in the industry, and actually be managed by the industry. Besides, it is important to distinguish professional game players from the players who just for entertainment, since the management directly influence the professional players.
In addition, it is also very important and essential to interview the owners and tournaments operators since they can directly reflect the challenges faced by Chinese eSports industry. Generally, 3 owners and operators will be invited to participate in the semi-structure interviews which last between 30 minutes and one hour. Three general topic areas are as follow: (1) what are the challenges they shall face with when managing the company; (2) what are the ways for them to manage the company and the game players; (3) is there anything they can improve to further develop their company. As the leading actor of eSports industry, the views of the owners and tournaments operators directly reflect present and future management of the industry. I also want to be clear about whether or not these managers deeply think about the rational management and future development direction of the industry.
When it comes to researching the audiences of eSports, online questionnaire will be employed. Since Douyu TV, Panda TV, and Huya are three major stream platforms for people to watch others play eSports in China, the questionnaires mainly invite the audiences in these platforms to finish. It is better if there are as many participants as possible because more data can provide more reliability (Vera et al., 2010). Generally, there are three general topic areas: (1) why are they interested in watching others play eSports; (2) do they play eSports and want to be a professional game player; (3) what do they think of the eSports management.
Besides, my research will also be carried out on the basis of learning from prior researches. As Cheng and Phillips (2014) point out that, secondary analysis of existing information and data is useful because of its low cost and high efficiency. Therefore, I will spend several days in searching related peer-reviewed journal articles and books through the school library, for the sake of understanding the traditional sports management as well as current situation of Chinese eSport management.