Further confirmation that the esports market is booming amid the pandemic comes today with the news that esports “total solutions provider” VSPN (Versus Programming Network) has raised what it describes as “close to” $100 million in a Series B funding round, led by Tencent Holdings. Other investors that participated in the round include Tiantu Capital, SIG (Susquehanna International Group), and Kuaishou. The funding round will go toward improving esports products and its ecosystem in China and across Asia.
Founded in 2016 and headquartered in Shanghai, VSPN was one of the early pioneers in esports tournament organization and content creation out of Asia. It has since expanded into other businesses, including offline venue operation.
In a statement, Dino Ying, CEO of VSPN (see also our exclusive interview) said: “We are delighted to announce this latest round of funding. Thanks to policies supporting Shanghai as the global center for esports, and with Beijing, Chengdu, and Xi’an expressing confidence in the development of esports, VSPN has grown rapidly in recent years. After this funding round, we look forward to building an esports research institute, an esports culture park, and further expanding globally. VSPN has a long-term vision and is dedicated to the sustainable development of the global esports ecosystem.”
Mars Hou, general manager of Tencent Esports, commented: “VSPN’s long-term company vision and leading position in esports production are vital for Tencent to optimize the layout of the esports industry’s development.”
We had a hint that Tencent might invest in VSPN when, in March this year, Mark Ren, COO of Tencent Holdings, made a public statement that Tencent would provide more high-quality esports competitions in conjunction with tournament organizers like VSPN.
As we observed in August, Tencent, already the world’s biggest games publisher, said that it would consolidate Douyu and Huya, the previously competing live-streaming sites focused on video games.
In other words, Tencent’s investment into VSPN shows it is once again doubling-down on the esports market.
This Series B funding round comes four years after VSPN’s 2016 Series A funding round, which was led by Focus Media Network, joined by China Jianteng Sports Industry Fund, Guangdian Capital and Averest Capital.
Now, VSPN has become the principal tournament organizer and broadcaster for PUBG MOBILE international competitions, and China’s top competitions for Honor of Kings, PUBG, Peacekeeper Elite, CrossFire, FIFA, QQ Speed and Clash Royale. This will tally-up 12,000 hours of original content. The company has partnered with more than 70% of China’s esports tournaments.
In March, another huge esports player, ESL, joined forces with Tencent to become a part of the PUBG Mobile esports circuit for 2020.
In addition to its core esports tournament and content production business, VSPN has branded esports venues in Chengdu, Xi’an and Shanghai. In May, VSPN launched its first overseas venue, V. SPACE in Seoul, South Korea.
And even offline events are coming back. VSPN hosted the first large-scale esport event with offline audiences in August this year. And the LOL S10 event will open 6,000 tickets. However, all tournaments will operate under strict COVID-19 prevention measures and approval processes by the Chinese government, and not all esports events are allowing offline audiences.
VSPN said it will continue to focus on building an esports short-form video ecosystem, improving the quality of esports content creation, and reaching more users via different channels. VSPN currently houses more than 1,000 employees in five business divisions.