Japan: a key player in the esports scene 2019 and beyond

From the very beginning, Japan has played a major role when it came to video games. Countless epic franchises, video game companies and even consoles began in the country of the rising sun. It’s really no surprise that even now, esports are ‘a thing’ there – most recently, the country proved this with a pretty amazing announcement.

Yuriko Koike, Governor of Tokyo, announced that a 50million yen initiative had been started (that’s about $450.000)… all to finance one two-day event in the capital. This money is being set aside in the new fiscal year, beginning April 1st and will be used to hold the event.

© Kim Kyung-Hoon | Reuters

When it comes to esports, the most popular ones are generally fighting games – in no small part because of the enduring popularity of arcades in the country – other kinds of esport, such as the popular FPS genre have struggled a little more to really gain a foothold in the country.

Last year, Japan formed the Japan Esports Union (JeSU) with one goal – to build infrastructure to support new and existing esports players. As if that wasn’t enough already (and honestly, how many countries can claim to have initiatives like that?) this new event is going to celebrate esports in all their facets.

No exact date or venue has been set yet, however we know that it won’t be until approximately April at the earliest as that’s when the new financial year begins and thus the new budget starts as well.

We do know that it almost definitely won’t be in September as that’s when the Tokyo Game Show takes place – Japans’ biggest and most popular video game convention. Though technically possible, it’s unlikely that these two events will be held close together.

In the meantime, for more concrete moves, the JeSU has announced 11 branches of its organization; each of them are going to operate locally in different prefectures around the country. This will give the Union a better platform to support players not located in or around one of the bigger cities in the country.

Few places have made as much of an effort to create and support organized infrastructure around the country as Japan has – in many places, the player and fan-bases developed first, with governments and organizations (including Japanese gaming companies) trying hard and occasionally failing to catch up and to support the behemoth industry that esports has become.

© Japan Esports Union

Japan is taking the initiative though – JeSU chairman Hideki Okamura even said last December: “The popularity of esports has grown from last year to this year and we will push it to a new stage next year. […] We think elevating the recognition of esports is one solution in making an approach to the International Olympic Committee or the Japanese Olympic Committee”. Many esports fans’ hearts beat faster at the mention of the Olympics of course – whether or not esports will be included in them in the future is one of the big questions in the world of esports, with both those in favour and those against eagerly waiting for new developments on the matter – in Japan and the rest of the world.