A recently released “Gaming Companion White Paper” sheds light on a profession you may not have heard of.
Gaming companion apps pay gamers to play with others in a process called “game sparring” (游戏陪练). The idea is you get to test your skills and improve against a more established or higher-level gamer, or just have someone to play along with if you’re feeling lonely.
And one of these gamers-for-hire, surprisingly, is Wang Sicong, a notorious billionaire playboy/esports guru. The report made a splash on social media yesterday as netizens learned that Wang was the highest-paid gamer on popular “game sparring” platform Bixin, charging 666RMB (about 94USD) per hour for his services.
Wang Sicong, son of China’s wealthiest real estate tycoon Wang Jianlin, is somewhere between Tony Stark and China’s collective little cousin. But when he’s not being compared to Silvio Berlusconi by state media for talking about boobs, or buying Apple Watches for his dog, Wang is a celebrity in the esports world. The team he owns, Invictus Gaming, became China’s first League of Legends champions in 2018.
Bixin, the authors of the white paper and creators of one of China’s biggest gaming companion apps, reported that 1.5 million gamers work in the industry. According to Bixin, these game companions earn a monthly average of 7,857RMB (1,108USD) full-time and 2,929RMB (413USD) for part-time employment.
Gaming companion apps rose to popularity in 2019. Now, over a dozen apps offer the chance to spar with strangers (or famous billionaires) on the internet. As of today, the vice president of Bixin estimates that the game companion industry is worth 10 billion USD. And in the age of a global pandemic, that number may well be set to rise.
For his part, Wang responded to the news with a succinct message on his Weibo microblog: “No point in saying much. Whoever can get this price is making it.”