In Japan, the cradle of video games, electronic sport takes off barely

Sport 24 September, 2017

Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi Agence France-Presse
Some japanese players will be able to rub shoulders with the best in the world during the Tokyo Game Show, the largest trade show for the video game in Asia.

Paradox surprising : if the electronic sport is experiencing a growing popularity in the world, its popularity has reached strangely not of the tops in the country of Sony and Nintendo, a delay surprising that Japan is trying to catch up.


While everything seemed to have gathered for this, the graft has not taken. If South Korea currently provides the main contingent of professional players, and organizes the main events of the discipline commonly known as “esports,” the Japanese are very far away from the front of the stage. An incongruity in the countries where they are yet born of the first video games in the early 1970s and where the two giants Sony and Nintendo dominate the console market.


A sub-astonishing development, but that has its explanation. The japanese law concerning the games of money has long hampered the professionalization of the players, limiting their potential income. The one on the dissemination of digital content in public also. There are also cultural reasons : the mode of consumption of video games in Japan — phone games, arcade — has long not been the practice of the sport of electronic, rather on computer. And the most popular games in Japan are not necessarily games of eSport.


Prospects open


This differential has leaded to the development of the discipline in the archipelago for years, but prospects are now opening up.


Some japanese players will be able to rub shoulders with the best in the world during the Tokyo Game Show, the largest trade show for the video game in Asia, which began Thursday and which are expected to nearly 250,000 visitors.


On a stage set up for the first time in the middle of the immense and noisy exhibition center in Makuhari, Chiba, players will battle it out on fighting games like Street Fighter V or simulations of soccer.


Photo: Kazuhiro Nogi Agence France-Presse

For the first time, eu stage fights and tournaments occupies a place of choice at the Tokyo Game Show.


Competition classic, but who may participate in changing mentalities.


“A lot of people here don’t even know the term “esports”. But this [show at the Tokyo Game Show] could radically change things, ” says the AFP tai chi Shibuki, the president of a society of video games (JPPVR), crossed on the living room.


“I hope that the Japanese are going to realize that earn money and earn a living as a professional video game is just as awesome to be a tennis player like [Kei] Nishikori or other,” adds tai chi Shibuki.


A booming discipline


Among the Japanese who will compete on stage, there are also Japanese-Mika Sawae, the artistic director of a company in Tokyo.


“I took a day off to come at TGS. I love fighting games, ” she said to AFP.


It is one of the few women to participate, but it confirms that more and more girls get involved with video games.


The discipline is booming : the electronic sport will be a full-fledged discipline at the asian Games in 2022 in China, and knocking at the gates of the olympic Games… but for the after-OJ 2020 in Tokyo.


The Tokyo Game Show host this year more than 600 exhibitors who present a very wide palette of digital entertainment, in which the great sagas to the world renowned, and at the other end of the spectrum, very specific and confidential games for a niche of the japanese public.


Nintendo does not participate in this show, but are nevertheless represented companies developing games for the console Switch and, of course, for the PlayStation 4 from Sony, the usual brand local star of the show.