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This guest post was written for The Esports Observer by Wiktor Marczyk, a Japanese interpreter and founder of gaming-focused translating services company GG Translating.
According to a recent study by a Japanese company KADOKAWA Game Linkage, Japanese esports market revenue has grown 27% year on year to over $55M USD, with the esports audience observing a 26% growth in the same period to 4.8M fans nation-wide.
KADOKAWA Game Linkage is the owner of Famitsu.com, Japan’s biggest gaming news website, and FAV Gaming, a Japanese esports organization focusing mainly on fighting games. It’s a branch company of media conglomerate KADOKAWA. Recently it published a report on the Japanese esports market growth and its perspectives.
The report covers the period from 2018, which is widely considered “year zero” of the Japanese professional esports scene. That year brought on a change of regulations on gambling that made it possible to organize esports events endowed with considerable prize money. It also saw the emergence of the Japanese eSports Union (JeSU) which licenses and regulates the professional esports scene.
Since its formal beginning two years ago, the market has already grown a quarter of its size year on year. According to the report, it should keep this tendency and witness a rapid development in the coming years, with an average growth of 26% year on year, and triple its size in five years time – between 2018 and 2023.
Team and tournament sponsorship deals combine for three-quarters of the market, with other streams of revenue such as merchandise, tickets, licensing, and media rights forming the rest. According to the report, with many new teams and tournaments predicted to be established in the coming years, the number of companies that will seek to tap into the market as sponsors should also grow.
The esports audience number has grown together with the revenues, with 26% more tournament spectators and video content viewers in 2019 compared to 2018. It is predicted that both figures should grow similarly over the next five years, with esports fan numbers also to rise 250% over the coming four years. Compared with Japan’s total population forecast, the data shows that around 10% of Japanese would account for esports fans in 2023.
According to the authors, the biggest growth should be seen in the mobile esports market. Three main reasons for that are the proliferation of mobile devices in Japan combined with a rather low popularity of gaming PCs, planned conversions of many popular titles from PCs and consoles to mobile devices (already seen with highly successful mobile releases of PUBG MOBILE and Call of Duty Mobile), and also the introduction and development of 5G networks. 5G is also being cited as one of the main factors in the forecasted audience growth as it will bring more streaming possibilities, the second one being the rising number of tournaments held in the country.
The Japanese esports market might have had a considerably late start compared to the global tendencies owing the lack of growth to obstructive regulations and high social barriers, but the symptoms of growing popularity can already be seen not only in the revenue and audience growth, but also in the rising number of shops dedicated to esports and esports sections in popular electronic markets.
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