Esports in search of recognition in Japan



Contrary to what one would tend to think, e-sport – the practice of video games in competition – is struggling to take off in Japan. The discipline does not know the same enthusiasm as in South Korea, the United States or China.

According to an estimate from NewZoo, a Dutch company specializing in analyzes of the video game sector, e-sport represents a market of 900 million euros worldwide in 2021, up 230% compared to 2016. Players famous people thus sweep bonuses of several million euros, for example on a competition like The International, a tournament played on the strategy game DOTA 2. Even the International Olympic Committee (IOC) plans to make medalist disciplines of e- sport for the Los Angeles Games in 2028.

But Japan, despite being the source of many video games, is ” very late “, regrets Hirokazu Hamamura, vice-president of the Japan Electronic Sports Union, founded in 2018. “Despite strong growth in recent years, the country’s market is only 50 million euros. “

Japan is lagging behind

According to him, the discipline is above all a victim of the success of video games, very popular, which are played on consoles (Playstation and Nintendo in the lead), unlike e-sport which is played on a computer. “It’s a shame, because everyone can take part in an esports match on an equal footing, regardless of age, sex, body type”, he explains.

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Chikara Kawakami, former professional esports player known by his pseudonym Shaka, also deplores the delay Japan has taken in the field. “I have always dreamed of becoming a professional, but it is only in recent years that we have teams capable of guaranteeing economic stability to their players., he emphasizes.

A “promising area”

Can Japan catch up? The country’s market is expected to grow by 214% by 2024, predicts a study by the Kadokawa Ascii Research Laboratories. The discipline now enjoys the support of the Ministry of the Economy, which sees it as a “Promising area”.

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In the process, around fifteen teams with significant financial resources were created, allowing young people to dream of a professional career. “For the popularity of esports to explode in Japan, only one player of international level remains”, put Hirokazu Hamamura.

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