Japan is an Esports hub



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Within just a few years, mobile gaming has evolved from a less than serious gaming platform into the fastest growing Esports platform, and one which is more than a match for its PC and console counterparts. According to various independent reports, PC gaming had a 23% revenue share of the global Esports market by the end of 2020, while mobile gaming had a 46% share. However, by 2022, mobile games will account for over half of all gaming revenue. It seems that it is only a matter of time before mobile gaming becomes the main platform from which Esports are played.

Newzoo’s 2021 Trends to Watch in games, Esports and mobile report says that, this year, 2.8 billion global gamers (over 30% of the world’s population) will lift the games market income to US$189.3 billion, with markets such as China and Southeast Asia driving much of the revenue growth. One of the outstanding countries was Japan, whose Esports market grew by 9% in 2020 and is set to continue its upward momentum in the coming years, according to figures released by gaming information firm Famitsu.

The potential of the esports market in Japan

Gaming has been a staple in Japanese culture since the 1980s, being the homeplace of cult-classic games such as Mario and Final Fantasy, and its popularity has only increased throughout the noughties since the world moved to online gaming.

In Esports terms, Japan has been a latecomer compared to its East Asian neighbors such as South Korea and China. However, the Japanese market has been catching up with even these giants. Looking at the game market by revenues, Japan is the third largest in the world after the United States and China. In a movement which is still as relatively young as Esports, there is still a lot of room to grow.

Japan has always been a jet-setter in the world when it comes to the innovation of fun, interesting ideas, from trains that hit speeds upwards of 300 mph, or toilets that play music as you go about your business and now more recently the world’s first Esports gym. Tokyo Metro and Gecipe Inc., a company that aims to educate and make Esports accessible to everyone, has announced the opening of the world's first Esports GYM. The GYM will feature 12 upgraded and fully-equipped desktop PCs, high-back desktop chairs, a mouse, keyboard, headphones and top gamers who are on standby to help hone players' skill levels.

The effects of the pandemic

While the ongoing disruption caused by COVID-19 remains a threat to a number of traditional sports sectors, the effect of the pandemic on Esports has had the opposite effect, driving growth as gaming has become even more commonplace than it was before.

PUBG Mobile was the uncontested king of competitive mobile games in 2020 and the ascension of PUBG Mobile’s competitive scene has continued throughout 2021. The total prize pool for next year’s official tournaments will amount to $14 million, scattered through international events and seven regional pro leagues and open series. A Japanese franchised league, the first for the game, will also kick off in 2021 with a $2.8 million prize pool.

Other mobile games popular within the Esport community have flourished in 2021. According to the Airnow Data platform, during Q2 2021 Garena Free Fire grew by over 126%, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang grew 33.5% and Call of Duty: Mobile grew by over 31%.

Rounding off

So, with the pandemic only seeming to spur on the unstoppable march of Esports around the world, Japan looks set to take on a prime role in the sport’s development. The rich history of gaming, combined with a Japanese culture that always seems to be a torchbearer for the world’s newest and hottest trends, makes Japan a strong contender for becoming the world’s next Esport hub.