The 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou took place in September and early October 2023 – after a long delay attributed to the pandemic. The Games’ Director explained, “This is the first Asian Games after the COVID-19 pandemic, so it will play a unique, inspiring and important role for the Asian people.” It was an exciting Games, especially because it is the first year the Games have included esports as a medal event.

The 2018 Asian Games, which took place in Jakarta, also featured esports, but only as a demonstration event. Since then, esports have appeared as a medal event three times at the SEA Games (2019 in Manila, 2021 in Hanoi, and 2023 in Cambodia). These appearances have solidified esports popularity and place at multisport events in Asia, but the 2023 Hangzhou Games mark a new milestone: This Asian Games was the largest Olympic Council of Asia sanctioned event to feature esports in medal competition.

The digital torchbearer extinguished the cauldron during the Asian Games 2023 closing ceremony (Source: 19th Asian Games Hangzhou 2022 Official Website)


There are two main reasons we think this is exciting for the future of esports in Asia and around the world.

First, esports inclusion at The Asian Games lends legitimacy and recognition to esports teams and players and serves as an important step towards esports inclusion at future multisport events and eventually even at the Olympics. In fact, this year the Olympics also introduced an Esports Week, held in Singapore, a festival intended to showcase electronic versions of traditional sport and a sign of growing integration of esports into Olympic competitions. A crucial thing to understand, is esports are already seen as a sport in Asia, with little distinction made between a tennis star and an e-athlete. As this understanding spreads, we will see more regions putting esports alongside other competitive sports.

Second, esports inclusion at the Asian Games encourages national investment in esports development and infrastructure. A record breaking 476 athletes from 30 countries participated in esports at the games. To get them there, governments have invested in national team selection and training as well as tournaments, facilities, and travel. In the lead up to the Asian Games many countries across the region increased national funding for esports programs and built national training facilities. For example, The Philippines and Malaysia both opened new national esports centers and facilities in the last two years, while Korea and Indonesia both recently updated legislation around the designation of esports athletes.

The esports competition at The Games took place at the China Hangzhou Esports Center, which was built specifically for the games and opened after 20 months of construction in May 2022. A total of RMB 4.6 billion ($640 million) was invested in the project with the local government establishing funds to support the esports industry. The 82,000-square-meter stadium is equipped with 4,500 seats and four large screens is a testament to the country’s commitment to a burgeoning esports industry.

China Hangzhou Esports Center as the esports venue for Asian Games 2023 (Credit: Ishara S. Kodikara/AFP/Getty Images, AOGVISION)


Prior to the Asian Games’ esports event, the stadium hosted important national level esports tournaments such as NetEase’s Naraka: Bladepoint Wudao Zhengfeng Cup, which took place in May 2022, and Tencent’s Peacekeeper Elite League Spring finals, which took place in April earlier this year. The stadium will continue to be utilized for major esports events going forward.

Competition took place across 7 esports titles: Arena of Valor Asian Games Version, EA Sports FC Online (formerly known as FIFA Online 4), Street Fighter V: Champion Edition, League of Legends, Dream Three Kingdoms 2, Peace Elite Asian Games Version (also known as PUBG Mobile), and finally DOTA 2. An 8th title, Hearthstone, was originally included as an 8th event, but Blizzard’s suspension of game services in the Chinese market following the closing of their partnership with NetEase sparked the removal of the game from competition.

Esports were a major draw at the games, even before the event got underway. The esports events were the most sought-after tickets in Hangzhou, creating a need for a ticket lottery and frenzy for resale tickets with people paying as much as RMB 1,000 for tickets. According to organizers over 5 million people applied for esports event tickets. The starting price for a game of EA Sports FC was RMB 400, eight times more than that of a traditional football/soccer ticket at The Games. This excitement bodes well for the future of esports at these types of events: esports are clearly a draw for a multisport event like the Asian Games and a dependable way to build engagement with younger fans and people who may engage less with traditional sports.

National excitement around esports was also a factor, as China was a strong favorite going into The Games, winning the first esports gold medal in the 72-year history of the Asian Games on September 26. China would go on to claim three more golds and a bronze medal, for a total of 5 medals overall. Korea and Thailand also performed well with 2 gold for Korea, 1 for Thailand and 4 medals each overall.

Final medal standings for esports (Source: 19th Asian Games Hangzhou 2022 Official Website). China took gold in Arena of Valor, DOTA 2, Dream of the Three Kingdoms, and Peacekeeper Elite. Korea took Gold in League of Legends and Street Fighter V, with Korean medalists also granted military service exemptions for the medals they collected. Thailand collected the gold medal in EA Sports FC Online.


According to data from Niko Partner’s Streaming Tracker, League of Legends, Honor of Kings, and Dota 2 drew the largest viewership numbers in China during the games. Broadcasts over streaming platforms differed from most esports tournaments, as only selected Asian Games Esports matches were shown on Huya. This may have affected viewership.


Overall, the Asian Games were a major success for hosts China, the Olympic Council of Asia, and the AESF who organized the esports component of the Asian Games. Across all disciplines, the Asian Games attracted more athletes to participate than the Olympics Esports Week which took place earlier this summer. As expected, esports were a star of the show, and we predict this successful outing is a firm step towards inclusion of video games at the Asian Games going forward and at other IOC events in the future.

China has the world’s largest esports market by revenue and fans. The market generated $445 million in 2022 or 64.8% of the Asian esports market and China boasts 400 million esports fans. China market constituted $1.3 billion global esports market. Learn more on the world’s next big sports through our Esports in Asia and MENA report. Stay ahead on the esports industry with our Esports VANA and Esports Tracker, and our range of esports products.