While Tencent tries to grow the Arena of Valor [download Apk] esports scene in the west, the Chinese esports scene is on fire right now with a million-dollar player transfer that just took place. Chinese team GK E-sports Club recruited player-coach Zhang "Loa Shuai" Yuchen, a former player for AG Gaming in the Kings Pro League, for 8 million yuan, or about $1.2 million USD. He will serve as a player-coach for GK's Honor of Kings (the Chinese name for Arena of Valor) team. What makes him worth so much? He boasted an average 3.4 kills to 1.8 deaths, and averaged 5.7 assists in a total of 38 matches, helping AG Gaming reach the KPL Playoffs.
According to esports industry analyst Sheng Yi, this is a record for Chinese mobile esports, and likely a record fee for mobile esports in general. This isn't a record for esports yet, as reports that League of Legends star Jian "Uzi" Zi-Hao reportedly had a transfer fee for $7.85 million USD.
The Kings Pro League had a crowd of over 11,000 fans attend the 2017 Kings Pro League fall season final in December 2017, with QGhappy defeating XQ to win 1.2 million yuan. The league has existed since 2016, and has seen a meteoric rise in popularity. The game itself does gangbusters business in China, with it being the top-grossing mobile game in 2017, worth $1.9 billion according to a Superdata report. It's not near that level of performance in the west yet, but recent reports have established North American organizations trying to enter the fray with the game's global expansion of its competitive scene.
While there's still a lot of development for a western player of Arena of Valor to command a massive transfer fee, Tencent is well-positioned to do so. Not only do they have a ton of money as it is between their successful portfolio of games, they also have experience in running perhaps the biggest esport in the world with the League Championship Series through subsidiary Riot. They might be able to build the culture for a mobile esport to happen on a global scale. But then again, if it doesn't, well, there's always the gobs and gobs of money that Honor of Kings brings from China, and the rapidly-growing esports seen there. A game doesn't have to succeed in America to be a massive business. In fact, the mobile gaming market in China is more than triple the size of the American market.
Still, with companies trying to have the game that becomes the dominant mobile esport, don't be surprised if more million-dollar deals start to go down, especially if Arena of Valor's global expansion winds up succeeding. The game's focus on competitive play might just make it the title that sees western teams making major money moves in mobile esports. For now, the pressure is on Zhang "Loa Shuai" Yuchen to deliver for GK in the volatile competitive world of Arena of Valor/Honor of Kings.