AbstractMore and more recent studies have come to realize that the emerging industries not only occur within a city but also are impacted by the city network. This study uses a shift-share analysis (SSA) method to measure the evolutionary characteristics of the esports industry in 26 cities of the Yangtze River Delta region from 2004 to 2018. The study found that the esports industry showed a process of spreading from the central city to the surrounding small- and medium-sized cities. This phenomenon was also impacted by factors such as technological diffusion, knowledge sharing of enterprises in the city network, complementarity between industries, and common market. This study further explored the influencing factors of the esports industry’s evolution in the city network through the econometric model, and the results showed that technology spillovers and market integration effects have a significant positive effect on the esports industry’s growth. This study verifies that the evolution of emerging industries in small- and medium-sized cities can benefit from a city network. Industrial clusters within cities and city networks are complementary and jointly promote the development of emerging industries. This study expands industrial development from urban inside to city network, which provides a broader perspective for urban and regional industrial planning. Furthermore, this study provides technical support for regional development planning and reminds urban decision makers to need to establish horizontal industrial linkages in city networks to achieve integrated regional development.