In recent years, esports has become a global phenomenon. In 2019, esports generated more than 443 million viewers around the world and revenues of over $1 billion. Some countries have not yet seen the opportunity for growth in this market. But that is beginning to change quickly. Leading the way is Japan.
The Esports Plans of Japan
In 2019, Japan’s revenue from esports was over $56 million. That may sound like a huge amount, but it pales into insignificance compared to how much Japan hopes to generate in the coming years. According to the Japan Times, the Japanese government is hoping to boost its economy via expanding its esports economy. Its goal is to generate $2.6 billion per year by 2023. It plans to create that revenue via advertising, digital and physical tickets, and tournament hosting. It will also fuel growth by attracting more game developers and 5G communication services.
Historically, the gaming market in Japan has focused mostly on single-player and mobile experiences. It is estimated that in 2018 there were 67.6 million gamers in Japan, making the country the third-largest gaming market in the world. Around 73% of Japanese gamers play mobile games, ranging from puzzles to casino games like roulette and blackjack at a ライブカジノ (live casino). And the most-watched esports game in the country is Street Fighter.
Why isn’t Japan’s esports revenue bigger already?
One reason why esports has not yet flourished as much as it could in Japan is because of the country’s law concerning maximum prizemoney payouts. If a product is being promoted during a tournament, cash prizes cannot exceed ¥100K, which is around $931. In the massive world of esports, that amount is more akin to pocket change. However, the Japanese Esports Union has now negotiated to give players licenses that show they are professional esports players, which enables them to participate in tournaments with prize pools that are bigger than the law allows in other competitions.
Japan’s Esports Aspirations
The plan to grow esports in Japan is not only about generating more revenue and gaining a large market share of the global sector. The Japanese government also aims to revitalize regional economies and increase social participation for all. For instance, it is hoped people with disabilities will join in with the initiatives to make esports tournaments events that anyone and everyone can get involved with.
The Highest-earning Esports Players in Japan
Japanese players of esports have already been earning big money. The highest-earning single player from Japan goes by the name of feg. He has won a staggering $1,003,000 from just playing the game Shadowverse in two tournaments. The second highest-earner from Japan is Hajime “Tokido” Taniguchi, who has won a total of $486,404 over 84 tournaments; $253,282 of which came from playing Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition. In third place is Umehara “Daigo” Daigo, who has won $238,984.14 over 51 tournaments; $120,363 of which came from playing Ultra Street Fighter IV.
How do those prize money amounts compare to the world’s top players? Well, the player known as feg may rank first in Japan, but the gamer is only 86th in the world rankings. The top three esports players in the world are:
- Johan Sundstein from Denmark, who has won a total of $6,915,222.
- Jesse Vainikka from Finland, who has won a total of $6,470,548.
- Anathan Pham from Australia, who has won a total of $6,000,411.
As you can see, global esports tournaments involve big money. So, it is no wonder that Japan is planning to expand its esports sector in the coming years.