Happiness on three wheels: China’s parcel deliverymen

Deliveryman Nan Shan drives his three-wheeler vehicle as he makes his rounds in Beijing ahead of the annual November 11 Singles Day shopping spree. (AFP)
Updated 10 November 2018
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Happiness on three wheels: China’s parcel deliverymen

  • China is about to hold its annual Singles Day shopping spree, China’s answer to Black Friday, which saw $25 billion spent in just one day last year

BEIJING: Deftly weaving through peak-hour Beijing traffic on a three-wheeled bike, Nan Shan has no time to chat as he races to deliver nearly 80 packages across China’s sprawling mega-capital.
Nan, 29, is one of an estimated 1.1 million deliverymen who fan out across China delivering some 109 million packages daily to fulfil the country’s insatiable demand for online shopping.
His job will get even more intense on Sunday, when the country holds its annual Singles Day shopping spree — China’s answer to Black Friday, which saw $25 billion spent in just one day last year.
“It’s not that more people are buying things but the same number of people are buying twice the number of things,” he told AFP.
A university graduate with a degree in international trade and commerce, Nan fell into the delivery business after a tight market in 2013 meant jobs were limited in Beijing.
“They said it was a good living being a deliveryman, so I tried it out and haven’t turned back ever since,” he told AFP.
“The money I earned wasn’t much to begin with, but as time went by and I got more familiar, I now make over 6,000 yuan ($860) a month.”
But the work is tough and relentless: no matter the season, Nan rises at the crack of dawn to collect his assigned packages for the day at a distribution point.
The packages are loaded into the cargo hold of his three-wheeled bike — sometimes even strapped down on the roof — as he makes his way across the Jianguomen district, a mix of traditional commercial buildings and apartment blocks.
On a recent Wednesday, faced with a building without an elevator, Nan was forced to lug a sack of parcels up several flights of stairs.
Despite racing to his delivery destinations, it still takes him about five hours to complete his rounds — allowing time for a quick lunch before he hits the road again, this time collecting packages.
“One time, five minutes after I dropped off a package, the recipient called me to say she wanted to return the product, so I had no choice but to turn back and pick it up,” he said.
“An occasion like Singles Day is a double-edged sword for us, we have to work harder but we also earn more.
“It’s tiring, the life of a deliveryman is very tough.”
But Nan, who is from Shanxi in central China, rarely takes a day off because “there’s nothing much to do.”
Asked if he would put his degree to use and take on another job, Nan demurred.
“I’m used to delivery work now. It’s not that I don’t have dreams but the right opportunity just hasn’t come up,” he said.
“For now, I’m happy where I am.”


Royale rumble: ‘Apex Legends’ smashing ‘Fortnite’ records

Updated 20 February 2019
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Royale rumble: ‘Apex Legends’ smashing ‘Fortnite’ records

  • “Apex Legends” has charged into the market and smashed “Fortnite” records for downloads and viewership since its release three weeks ago
  • Like “Fortnite” and “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” “Apex” is free to download and play, making its money by selling outfits and other upgrades for use in the game

NEW YORK: For the first time since its meteoric rise, “Fortnite” is no longer a no-doubt victory royale atop the video game industry.
“Apex Legends” — a battle royale from Electronic Arts — has charged into the market and smashed “Fortnite” records for downloads and viewership since its release three weeks ago. Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and other streaming stars have powered that surge, as has the emergence of an 18-year-old “Apex” superstar. Esports teams are already scrambling to sign talented players and invest long-term, while others are raising concerns about overcommitting to the suddenly volatile battle royale genre.
Developed by Respawn Entertainment and published by EA, “Apex” has shaken the industry by building on many of its shining successes. It has pulled popular elements from other battle royales — a type of video game where players are dropped into a map and fight in a last-man-standing format against up to 100 other gamers — while making a few key changes.
Like “Fortnite” and “PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds,” “Apex” is free to download and play, making its money by selling outfits and other upgrades for use in the game. Among its key differences: “Apex” players compete exclusively in teams of three and can choose characters with varying abilities, features essential to team-based esports like “League of Legends” and “Overwatch.”
The game also went hard after the existing battle royale audience. EA recruited Blevins, Richard “KingRichard” Nelson and other famous gamers, asking them to put down “Fortnite” and stream “Apex” following its release Feb. 4. Blevins alone has over 13 million subscribers on Twitch, immediately giving “Apex” a massive audience. It’s unclear if EA paid those influencers to play the game, and EA did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
“Apex” had 25 million downloads in its first week, crushing the “Fortnite” mark of 10 million over its first two weeks after launching in 2017.
“I think ‘Apex’ has caught everybody by storm,” said Andy Miller, CEO of NRG Esports, which rosters teams across various video game titles. “They did a phenomenal job of getting the influencers to play it first, feeding the market on Twitch and then watching everybody starting to play the game, and the game is good.”
Six days after the game launched, NRG announced it was recruiting “Apex” players, making it the first esports organization to seek a pro specifically for that title. General manager Jaime Cohenca led the search, combing through applications and Twitch streams. With the game being so new, Cohenca wasn’t entirely sure what he was looking for other than an “exceptional talent.”
He “knew immediately” when he came across Dizzy.
Coby “Dizzy” Meadows is an 18-year-old from Florida, and he is believed to be the best “Apex” player in the world. NRG signed him Feb. 12, and later that day, Meadows made major waves in the esports community by killing 33 of his 59 opponents in one match — a viral moment that generated nearly 500,000 views on YouTube alone. The next day, Meadows teamed up with Blevins and Nelson, also an NRG player, to win the $200,000 Twitch Rivals Apex Legends tournament against a lineup of streaming megastars.
Behind big draws for Dizzy, Ninja and KingRichard, “Apex” smashed another “Fortnite” record that day: 8.28 million hours of “Apex” were streamed on Twitch, topping the “Fortnite” mark of 6.6 million from July 20, per The Esports Observer.
Meadows has played regularly with Blevins and Nelson since. They won another tournament together later that week, and in the finals, Meadows had as many kills on his own as the entire opposing team.
“We knew this was a kid we had to take a flyer on,” Cohenca said. “Dizzy was a rock star.”
The question now: What comes next for “Apex,” “Fortnite,” and the stars and companies building up around their popularity? No doubt, NRG’s fast move on Meadows has paid off, and other top esports organizations have since begun recruiting their own “Apex” pros. But it’s still not clear what kind of scene they’re staffing up for.
Epic Games, the developer behind “Fortnite,” hasn’t prioritized that game’s competitive sphere in the same way that companies behind “League of Legends” or “Overwatch” have. Top “Fortnite” players like Blevins aren’t necessarily stars because they win every tournament. Ninja is a skilled gamer, for sure, but what has separated him is that he’s entertaining, a talent that pairs well with a goofier game like “Fortnite.”
“Apex” lacks those cartoonish vibes, and its rules and structure could lend it better to competitive esports — where skill and teamwork become more important than engaging on Twitch. EA has experience building leagues around its games, too, most notably with sports titles like Madden and FIFA.
Right now, it’s unclear where “Apex” is going, and for how long it can hold that space. That’s part of why Ari Segal, CEO at Immortals, has been hesitant to invest in battle royale players. He remains cautious, especially now that “Apex” has drawn up such a spectacular blueprint for entering the market.
“It’s a well-oiled flywheel that likely means new battle royale games will increasingly be able to launch to faster and larger success, at least initially,” he said.
Immortals and NRG are at opposite ends of that spectrum, in many ways. NRG already has plans to build out a full “Apex” team so it’s ready to put a talented squad in the field no matter the competitive and streaming structure. It also plans to maintain its “Fortnite” roster, which features entertaining streamers like Nelson.
Segal’s concern is that if one battle royale can so quickly pull eyeballs from the others, how do you build around each title? Formerly an executive with the NHL’s Arizona Coyotes, his ambitions are to turn Immortals into a longstanding franchise like those in traditional sports. Quickly turning over rosters to keep up with the hot new thing isn’t part of his plan.
“We believe that by selling sizzle, your customer is buying sizzle, and that by definition will flame out,” Segal said. “We’re not selling sizzle; we’re building community.”