Japanese government launches initiative to lift esports

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry will partner with companies in the gaming industry and legal experts, to draw up guidelines to promote esports in the country.

According to Kyodo News, the initiative is aimed at building expertise within Japan’s esports sector in order to organise large tournaments and handle legal issues around the intellectual property of game developers.

Japan is the home of major game developers including Nintendo, Sony, Capcom and Konami, and about half the nation’s 127 million population is reported to play video games. Yet esports has not built a strong presence in the country, largely due to legal restrictions.

Only in 2018 was a law restricting game-makers from holding competitions offering substantial prize money changed, opening the door for esports tournaments. But the lifting of the restriction was conditional on contestants being professional competitors.

The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is aiming to boost industry revenues from tournament ticket sales, fees for online viewing, and advertising revenue, with the target of generating at least ¥285bn ($2.6bn/€2.4bn) by 2025.

Currently, Japan’s esports market is expected to grow from ¥6.1bn ($56bn/€51bn) in 2019 to ¥15.3 bn ($142m/€129m) in 2023, according to research company BCN.

The downstream benefits envisaged in lifting the Japanese esports economy include greater use of 5G telecommunication services and more games developers entering the market.

Japanese organisations have also used esports for health and social benefits. Saitama City Citizens Social Network has established an association to organise esports events for retired residents to improve their cognitive health. An esports event for people with disabilities was also organised in Takasaki.