KOF 97 Douyu Cup becomes one of the most spectated fighting game tournament in history with 500,000 peak viewers

Screenshot 2014-12-21 05.11.19

Over the weekend, Douyu TV, Shanghai’s TTW Arcade, and 17utt.com hosted the KOF97 Douyu Cup in Shanghai, which drew in hundred of fans to spectate at the venue, and hundreds of thousands of fans spectating online.

Unprecedented Viewership

The tournament was notable as it drew in unprecedented viewership numbers.  Over the two days, the viewers who tuned in to the tournament averaged over 200,000.  On the second day, right after the finals began, the viewership at some point broke through 500,000 people.  On top of the official stream, there were a number of re-streams that offered separate commentaries on Douyu.  Together, they represent an additional 50,000 viewers on top of the half million viewers who watched the official stream.

The viewership numbers at the KOF 97 Douyu Cup completely shatter the viewership numbers set by EVO and Capcom Cup.  The EVO Championship series, widely regarded as the largest fighting game tournament in the world, reported peak viewership at 144,000, less than the 1/3 of the viewership at the KOF97 Douyu Cup.

Screenshot 2014-12-21 06.05.18Despite the high viewership numbers, the stream and tournament set up for the KOF 97 Douyu Cup is rather lighthearted.  The stream featured a crowd camera and 2 player cameras and nothing more.  Throughout the tournament, a large crowd of around 200-300 KOF fans were seen spectating at the arcade.  There were no breaks in between matches for sponsors messages /commercials, nor were there any live music/presentation to entertain viewers.  The streamer frequently showed messages on the stream to poke fun of the players and commentators.  There was only 1 commentator at any given time, and commentaries were usually done by the players rather than dedicated commentators.

In contrast to Capcom Cup or EVO, both of which favored short sets of 2/3 games, the matches in the Douyu Cup were played out in long sets, with players playing FT5 in top 16, FT7 in top 8, FT10 in top 4.  The two-day tournament was actually two separate tournaments played on 2 different platforms.  The first day featured a tournament ran on the SuperArc platform all the way to top 4, and the second day featured a tournament for the Arcade version, as well as the top 4 finals for the SuperArc division.  To close out the tournament, the winner of the SuperArc tournament battled the winner of the Arcade tournament to decide the ultimate champion.

Rise of e-sports in China

A large part of the reason for the big viewership numbers was due to China’s long history love for KOF 97, but the numbers also point the the fact that China has been emerging as a premier location for e-sports and as a dominant force for competitive gaming.  Tencent has recently officially partnered up with SNK Playmore to release a few of the classic SNK titles on the QQ platform.  For games like KOF 98UM and KOF 2002UM, the platform regularly draws in several thousands of people playing at any given time of the day.

Over the past year, China has also hosted a few of the largest e-sport tournaments for fighting games.  Tencent hosted TGA summer championship for KOF 2002UM, and TGA Winter Championship for KOF 98UM.  Both tournaments featured large pot prizes of over $12,000 USD.  The rise in Chinese e-sports is not limited to fighting games, earlier this year at the International Dota 2 World Championship grand finals, two Chinese Teams battled each other other for the largest prize pool in competitive gaming history, after defeating other top professional gaming teams from around the world.

Douyu, the platform that streamed the KOF97 tournament, could be seen as the Chinese equivalent to Twitch.  The platform has been expanding rapidly, and recently the viewership numbers on Douyu regularly surpass the numbers on Twitch. A number of top Asian players have recently started to stream regularly on Douyu, including China’s XiaoHai, Dakou, and Taiwan’s ET.  Korea’s Cafeid has also started to broadcast their streams concurrently on Douyu in addition to streaming on Twitch, in an effort to cater to the Chinese fans.

6 comments

  • oh this basically sayin China is da world ,man.
    I still don’t care prize tho, but the love is real and I like the fact that the “legacy” has been passed down thru the generation there naturally without questioning(things like is this Modern(HD??) or Fad(would I look cool playing KOF9999??). Things must be quite simple there:)

  • A tournament of far bigger scale is currently brewing its way to the finale in May. Higher prize. bigger viewership, larger contender group, the reputation is at stake for Fujian KYO, nicknamed the diabolical demon of KOF 97….

  • is there any one who will play kof97 with me i challnge

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