U.S.-based esports teams are starting to develop an international talent pipeline in hopes of leveling the playing field.
Asian countries have overwhelmingly dominated esports competitions, thanks in part to wider scale acceptance of esports as a legitimate career path.
Many gamers in countries like China and South Korea begin competing as children, and those who become professionals practice for up to 18 hours a day, according to The New York Times.
“League of Legends” is the highest profile game in the esports space, and its 2019 world championships had more than 100 million viewers. Asia-based teams have won nine out of 10 world titles in the event.
- U.S. esports teams are luring Asian talent with large salaries and opportunities outside the sport — the same recruiting tactic employed by Major League Soccer to bring in notable European players.
- American teams have recruited “at least 40” esports players from Asia since 2016, according to The New York Times, and a “similar number” from Europe.
Outside of large salaries, opportunities like attending American colleges and universities have also attracted Asian-born players. Several institutions across the country are building esports programs.
In November, Taiwan’s Hu Shuo-Chieh signed a record-breaking two-year, $6 million contract with U.S. based team TSM.
As more major brands like Marvel Entertainment and Miller Lite dive into esports, the hunt for talent will only heat up.