Japan recognizes eSports, companies seek to capitalize on local market

A few months ago the Japanese government officially recognized and allowed eSports competitions to take place within the country. As a direct result of this, multiple gaming companies and developers are aiming to capitalize on this decision and to bring their product to one of the largest gaming markets in the world.

Asian Games 2018: eSports

Konami is one of the first companies to jump on the bandwagon looking to promote its intellectual property Pro Evolution Soccer and it was one of the six games featured in the Asian Games 2018 event. The company is also interested in bringing their Yu-Gi-Oh and Powerful Pro Baseball franchises into the general mainstream by organizing more eSports events, while also expressing a desire to develop other titles dedicated to the eSports scene.

Blizzard Entertainment also saw great representation in the Asian Games 2018 event, with 2 of the 6 played games bearing their logo. Of course, we are referring to Hearthstone and Starcraft II. The Starcraft series has long been popular in the Asian scene, especially so in Korea where it is one of the most influential strategy game franchises of all time. Hearthstone, while not as popular as Starcraft II, also enjoys a large user base and the streaming scene is very successful. The Hearthstone World Championship Series run by Blizzard on a yearly basis draws in millions of viewers on the Internet and there is a large following for the game.

Arena of Valor by Tencent Games opened the eSports part of Asian Games 2018, with the tournament going on all day on 26 August. Clash Royale made a somewhat surprise appearance also, considering that it is the only mobile-exclusive game from the selection. The Clash Royale tournament took place on 27 August, though it may have been impeded by the League of Legends tournament which also started on the same date. Riot Games’ title was given by far the largest amount of attention, running for three days straight from 27 August to 29 August.

What is remarkable is that there was participation from players from all over the Asian continent. In fact, professional gamers from 16 Asian countries took part in the event. While not all countries had equal representation in all games, their presence was felt in the event.

What this means for eSports on a global level

All of this showcases that there is a great deal of interest for eSports to have a larger representation in the mainstream media. It is calculated that the combined viewership of eSports amounts to a fanbase of over 380 million viewers globally, not a number to be underestimated.

In fact, even non-gaming companies are starting to take notice. Online gambling operators were one of the first to scene, with major brands such as bet365 Esports and Betway esports sponsoring various professional teams. However, the range of companies looking to sponsor teams is expanding from those directly involved in the events to those that have no history with the eSports industry. For example, Toyota Motor Corporation sponsored an eSports tournament for the game Monster Strike, with the prize being a Toyota Corolla car for the winner.

Back in February of 2018, the Japan eSports Union was established by multiple eSports organizations, bringing legitimacy to the scene and setting up a platform for the eSports community to rally behind. This is unprecedented in Japan and the eSports industry is developing at an astounding pace. Clearly, there is great interest from all parties involved for eSports to succeed and judging by the current trends, the industry is indeed heading in that direction.

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