Watch out esports: Japan is coming

After a decades-long estrangement, Japan could finally be making a real entry into the esports world in 2018, following news from the Japanese Esports Association (JeSPA) that “pro licenses” would be issued to select competitive players.

Previously, strict gambling laws have prevented the country from having a real presence in the esports scene, but JeSPA’s announcement – a report which you can download here – could change all of that.

Once upon a time, esports was a part of mainstream culture in Japan. Video game competitions were televised to millions in the 1980’s, before falling foul of some rather heavy-handed legislation.

Laws were passed with the intent of curbing illegal gambling and specifically video poker tournaments, which were used by yakuza gangs to generate income. As a result, these bizarre rules prevented any esports tournaments from being run which used prize money resulting from ticket sales, and competitive gaming effectively became collateral damage in the government’s war on crime.

Copyright: <a href=''>meenna / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

The law also simply prevented prize pools from reaching any significant value, which in turn seriously inhibited the growth of the scene. For years, multi-million pound tournaments have been run in China, South Korea, Europe, and the US; meanwhile, the nation which gave us some of the biggest names in gaming has virtually missed out on the industry altogether.

Now, JeSPA is taking steps to fix that issue. By providing professional players with special licenses, the esports industry can bypass Japan’s somewhat archaic laws, and allow players to make a living in the field. Once the region is able to provide a platform for star talent, it will draw more community interest into esports, and a sustainable ecosystem can be achieved. In five years’ time, the nation may be able to catch up to some of its peers, and benefit from a slice of the $2.3 billion esports pie in 2022.

The first few titles which have reportedly been afforded the right to be granted esports player licenses are the following:

  • Winning Eleven 2018
  • Street Fighter V
  • Tekken 7
  • Puzzle & Dragons
  • Monster Strike

The general consensus is that more games are sure to follow, as developers apply to the government for their esports’ consideration and wade through the necessary red tape.

Esports Insider says: What fantastic news from overseas as Japan looks to effectively make its first real entry into esports. With so much gaming history in the nation, we can’t wait to see how the regional scene develops over the next few years.