Market Intelligence
Media and Entertainment Television Broadcasting Video Games Japan Economic Development and Investment Industrial Development

Japan eSports Market

As home to several major video game companies including Sony and Nintendo, Japan is often described as a video game superpower, yet it has lagged behind the rest of the gaming world in eSports. However, since 2018, the eSports industry in Japan has grown and shown room for further development. New services and demand for eSports are expected to greatly increase in coming years, offering opportunities for U.S. game software and related product manufacturers, designers, and developers; streaming services; sports event management and operators; sports players and team management companies; and designers and manufactures of universal design products. 

According to Gz Brain Co., Ltd and Kadokawa Game Linkage, Japan’s eSports-related market grew more than thirteen times its size over the course of one year: to 4.8 billion yen (US$35 million) in 2018 from 370 million yen (US$2.6 million) in 2017. As a result, 2018 is often described as “the year of eSports” in Japan.  In 2020, the COVID pandemic caused many previously planned in-person gaming tournaments to be postponed or held without spectators, resulting in fewer tickets sold and fewer sponsorships. However, the virtual tournament market for eSports grew due to the lockdown effects: more online competitions and events led to an increase in streaming and viewing hours and resulted in a rise in the value of broadcast rights. The eSports industry blossomed during this time, and the market for eSports in Japan is expected to grow to 9.9 billion yen (US$71 million) in 2022 and more than 18 billion yen (US$129 million) by 2025.  The number of eSports fans also greatly increased as competitions shifted to virtual formats. The estimated number of eSports fans in 2018 was approximately 3.8 million, while in 2022 there were more than 7.8 million fans.

Recently, high schools and universities have incorporated eSports into their club activities and classes. Senior citizen facilities are also introducing eSports for the purpose of health maintenance and dementia prevention. In response to the growing interest in eSports, major companies from various industries have supported the eSports industry: automobile manufacturers Toyota Motor Corporation and Subaru; food and beverage companies Nissin Food and Coca-Cola; telecommunications companies au and NTT DOCOMO; and others from across the pharmaceutical, apparel, and tourism industries. Some of their investments include establishing domestic eSports league brands; sponsoring players and teams; opening new eSports-specific facilities; and establishing eSports vocational schools, training, and hotel facilities. Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) and several municipalities also support the eSports industry, hoping it will help with economic revitalization through ripple effects on peripheral industries. METI released a “Report on the Development of eSports in Japan” and has begun surveying overseas trends to formulate international rules for eSports and establish a foundation for fair competitions.

Several legal issues need to be resolved for the eSports market to continue current growth trends in Japan. These issues primarily relate to sports tournaments and events that offer high cash awards as well as intellectual property rights, such as copyrights for video-streaming distribution. Japanese ministries, lawyers, researchers, manufacturers, the Japan eSports Union, and others are working to resolve these legal issues in eSports. 

If you are interested in more information on eSports in Japan, please contact

eSports is an abbreviation for “electronic sports,” and it refers to competitive games played over the Internet using video (TV) and computer games as sports competitions. There are several kinds of eSports and they are categorized into: fighting, combat, ball games, trading cards, puzzles, and shooting as well as smartphone app games. What differentiates eSports from home video games is the strong competitive element, with spectators in stadiums or other event facilities, and simultaneous distribution over the internet and television. A growing number of countries consider eSports to be a sporting event, with prize money exceeding US$ 70 million in some competitions. Internationally, eSports is particularly popular in the United States, the European Union, South Korea, and China.