In Japan, Officials are Embracing the Potential of Esports

25 Jan. 2019

In a previous blog, we discussed the factors behind the rapid rise of esports as an industry, with some considering 2019 as the year that it could become a billion-dollar industry. One of the driving factors of this growth is the increasing interest in the sector from public officials, as well as investors and industry figures such as Rewired GG’s principal backer Tej Kohli. Esports is quickly establishing itself as a lucrative and legitimate industry, but some countries have further to go than others. In the UK, for example, Sport England still do not include esports in their list of recognised sports, despite the efforts of high-profile enthusiasts and lobbyists.

In other countries, however, the story is quite different – and in Japan especially, public officials are fully embracing the wide-ranging potential of the esports industry.

At the start of 2019, Yuriko Koike, the governor of Tokyo announced that the city would be holding a special two-day esports industry event to promote the city’s expertise in video games and animation.

City officials have set aside 50 million yen – the equivalent of $450,000 – of Tokyo’s 2019 budget specifically for the esports showcase. This is just one of the ways that Japan is demonstrating its commitment to fostering the wide-ranging potential of its esports industry.

Last year, the Japan Esports Union (JeSU) was established to help with the industry’s ongoing process of professionalisation. The body will create better infrastructure for hosting esports events, training and supporting players, and developing new professional gaming talent.

This official display of esports enthusiasm from Japanese officials comes in spite of the country’s relatively late embrace of the esporting world. Compared to many other Asian markets, Japan has only recently found itself jumping aboard the esports bandwagon, despite its world-famous video games industry.

One factor at play in Japan’s sudden interest in the field is the increasing international profile of esports – last year, the Asian Games in Indonesia included esports as an exhibition event, with plans to upgrade it to a full medal event at the 2022 Games. Meanwhile, the team behind the organisations for the Paris 2024 Olympics are reportedly in talks to include esports as a demonstration event – potentially paving the way for its eventual inclusion as an Olympic event.

Regardless of the motives behind Japan’s newfound love affair with esports, their decisive public steps towards promoting the growth of the industry should be studied and replicated by other countries. Esports has such vast potential as an industry powered by emerging technology that public officials should be embracing the numerous benefits that it can bring – from increased infrastructure for live events to better training in valuable digital and tech skills for young people.

For investors such as Rewired GG’s own backer Tej Kohli, investments in esports are a way to foster one of the world’s most promising young industries – one that could challenge the dominance of traditional sports and offer a truly global, more egalitarian model.

Find out more about Rewired GG and the rise of esports here.