(Bloomberg) -- China dropped the live broadcast of some esports matchups at the Hangzhou Asian Games, casting a shadow over the billion-dollar arena of professionalized video gaming.
Chinese video platforms including Tencent Holdings Ltd. and Huya Inc. were told to stream only the semifinals and finals for multiplayer games like Honor of Kings and League of Legends, people familiar with the matter said. Concerns around internet addiction were at least in part behind the directive, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing private matters.
The last-minute notice caused confusion among China’s 400 million esports fans, who initially hoped to catch the programming when it kicked off Sunday. On Huya, one of China’s biggest Twitch-style services backed by Tencent, a scheduled program notice appeared, saying there would be no live feeds for the group-stage and quarterfinal esports competitions, without providing a reason.
On Tencent’s streaming site, users asked why they couldn’t find video footage, including replays, of the Day 1 matches in comments Bloomberg News reviewed that were later deleted Monday.
Tencent spokespersons didn’t respond to requests for comment, while a Huya representative declined to comment.
As with all major sports tournaments, state broadcaster CCTV holds the broadcasting rights for the Asian Games in mainland China, which it then distribute to other platforms.
On Monday afternoon, the Honor of Kings semifinal between China and Thailand was broadcast on sites including CCTV, Huya, and Tencent, as scheduled.
This year’s Asian Games marks the first time competitive video games are treated as an official medal event. Tencent has a hand in publishing or developing four of the seven competitive video games played in Hangzhou.
Beijing, which hopes to regain some international prestige by hosting its first big event following the Covid pandemic, draws a distinction between video games and esports. Regulators cracked down on the gaming industry in recent years, citing supposed youth addiction and problematic content. Competitive gaming, on the other hand, is seen as a legitimate sport, as cities like Shanghai and Shenzhen are vying to become global esports hubs.
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