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Shuli Ren

How an Esports Queen Trounced Billionaire Heirs

One woman navigated this cutthroat, male-dominated world to build China’s biggest club, beating out rivals who came from riches.

The queen, herself.

The queen, herself.

Photograph: Bloomberg Live

That esports players and company founders are showing up alongside biotech entrepreneurs at snazzy investor conferences can mean only one thing: Competitive video-gaming is going mainstream.

That’s a good thing for game publishers, who have come to recognize esports tournaments as a marketing opportunity. League of Legends, a nine-year-old title — ancient by industry standards — generated $1.4 billion in sales in 2018 for its owner, Tencent Holdings Ltd. Last year, four of the top six esports titles by prize money (which can reach into the millions) were among the top 20 highest-grossing games.