The first wave of Chinese live video streaming websites emerged in the second half of the 2000’s, later spawning into ‘virtual gift’ businesses, a model that has become as lucrative as gaming.

These platforms enable viewers to reward content contributors with virtual gifts that can be purchased with real money. Platforms in turn take a cut of each virtual item. The highly profitable sector has unsurprisingly attracted third-party companies who retail virtual gifts or market content for contributors or platforms.

Nasdaq-listed YY is considered a typical example and one of the most successful companies in the field. Originally creating an online games portal and a voice messaging service for game players, YY discovered their first inroads to virtual gifts in live-streaming amateur singers. They have since expanded to add gameplay, e-course, dating and even a channel for personal finance experts.

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Tracey Xiang

Tracey Xiang is Beijing, China-based tech writer. Reach her at traceyxiang@gmail.com