The Japanese eSports scene is developing at a rapid pace, with the Japan Football Association partnering up with the Japan eSports Union to co-host the eSports competitions set to take place during next year’s National Sports Festival.
In a recent development, the Japanese Football Association (JFA) has announced that it will co-host the eSports events during the 2019 National Sports Festival in Japan, alongside the Japan eSports Union (JESU). The two organizations plan to introduce the first eSports competition of its kind in the National Sports Festival (NSF) set to take place next year. One of the announced games for the event is Konami’s Pro Evolution Soccer, which was also featured in the Asian Games 2018 that concluded on Sunday last week.
eSports at the National Sports Festival
The event will be called Inter Prefectural eSports Championship and will feature three-on-three matches of the popular football game. While the Championship was announced earlier in May 2018 by the JESU and the NSF, the participation of the Japan Football Association was not certain. Despite that, it was only logical for the JFA to enter the eSports scene eventually, considering that it had opened an eSports division back in 2016. The JFA is not the only football organization to express interest in venturing into eSports, with FIFA and several other leagues showing a willingness to explore this yet unknown territory. In any event, the participation of an entity as large as the JFA will certainly affect the Japanese eSports scene positively.
As far as the event itself is concerned, qualifiers for the National Sports Festival will begin in April 2019 and will conclude in July the same year. Moreover, Naoki Sugimura and Tsubasa Aihara, gold medalists of the Asian Games 2018 PES tournament, also seem to want to participate in the event next year. On a different note, Ibaraki Governor Kazuhiko Oikawa aspires that the upcoming event will be a future benchmark for eSports in Japan, with hopes that the Kagoshima Prefecture 2020 event will also feature some sort of eSports.
Future of mainstream eSports in Japan
The JESU and JFA have high hopes for eSports in the future, wishing to significantly expand the scope of the industry in Japan. According to JFA Chairman Kozo Tashima, there is a large overlap between the fan bases of physical football and the virtual version. The JFA wants to generate more interest in both activities by bridging the two together.
We have one million players and five million members of our soccer family registered to the JFA. We want to increase the number of people involved in soccer to five or 10 million in the future, and one of the ways in which we can do that is by getting involved in esports.
All of this indicates that the future of eSports in Japan is looking bright. The Asian Games of 2018 served as an introduction of competitive video games into the mainstream. While games featuring violence were denounced by the Olympic Committee, sports-themed titles, such as the aforementioned Pro Evolution Soccer, seem to be welcome. The involvement of the Japan Football Association will doubtlessly be of invaluable support for the eSports industry in the country and we may just see a new wave of mainstream tournaments in the near future.