The state of E-Sports In Japan

As the digital gaming industry ballooned up to $61.85 Billion in 2015,

the 2 notable market within the gaming sector are leading the charge is the mobile space and E-sports or E-gaming sector.  Mobile gaming has stormed through the gaming industry, and new faces have completely disrupted the playing ground.  Supercell most notably, with their hit title, Clash of Clan, has experienced over $1.3 Billion in revenue in just 2015. E-sports has also made a huge mark in the gaming industry in the past 2-3 years as gaming giant Riot, developers of League of Legends has reported yearly earning of over $1.6 Billion in revenue for 2015, easily surpassing any mobile title in the market today.  Riot the creators of “League of Legends” is also showing no sign of slowing down as they look to expand into Japan in 2016, and has already kicked off their beta testing period later this month, with the UI completely Japan-afied, and voice overs for all the characters, it seems like you’re playing a completely different game.  Most notably, Wu Kong sounded exactly like the Dragonball’s Son Goku

As the gaming market made a seismic shift with the introduction of smartphones,  mobile gaming and e-sports has made headway, bringing rise to a lot of new social gaming companies in the Japan market, ie Gumi, Dena, Gree.  Although the social gaming genre has been a huge hit, the question is why hasn’t there been any noise regarding the E-sport front?

A lot to do with the Japanese culture and how game developers have cultivated the gaming culture to be more pve-centric than pvp.  Not say that the E-sports doesn’t exist at all, as the Tokyo Game Show host the yearly Street Fighter and Tekken competition but the RTS and the Moba has not translated much in the market.

Avoiding confrontation is something the Japan culture is taught early and is educated tolerate adversity in an introverted way.  This maybe be due to the result of the World War or the fact that Japan resides on an island where space is extremely limited.  Either or this has created a more passive aggressive, introverted culture, which has led to the more pve centric type game designs, that are popular in Japan today.

In the past, PVP games in Japan usually led to bullying tactics as players find a place for safe haven and group up with the strong clans leading to new players who enter to have a completely horrible experience and inevitably leave the game.  As a developer this is something they would like to avoid as they find difficulty balancing these games therefore resorting to a more socially friendly type of environment gaming platform.

As the E-sports gaming genre grows World wide and professional gamers start making gaming a primary source of income.  Japan still lags behind as it still not considered a viable career to sustain a consistent income as it is in Korea / China or even the Unite states these days.

This year, marked a noticeable push in the E-sports industry in Japan as Mixi a social platform / Game developer has announced a Prize Pot of 50 Million yen (Equivalent to $400,000 Usd) for its hit success title “Monster Strike”

MONSTER STRIKE TOURNAMENT WEBPAGE

This tournament has held on January 30 – 31 2016,  a 2 day tournament at Makuhari Messi with a turnout of over 47,000 + and over 6.5 Million views via streaming.  This is quite the first step for the E-Sport genre in Japan but the noise surrounding the outcome still lies in the fact that Monster Strike is still designed under the monetization guidance of the Gacha system where its most notably considered a “Pay to Win” game design.  With that said, to be a top competitor in this tournament, a user was required to spend 1000’s of dollars to obtain the top cards in the game, just to compete.

As e-sports looks to build its momentum in the Japan market it is important that developers create a fair gaming platform for anyone to compete or else it will definitely negate a huge pool of competitive users and resort back to the niche market it was for the past 15 years.

Social gaming and E-sports just don’t go together as the design motives are completely different. Social gaming looks to cash in and reward those that are social and have deep pockets, whereas e-sports players are focused on game balancing and the quality of the community.

Let’s hope League of Legends can help bring the top gamers in Japan to represent their country at the World Wide level as watching a world titles without a Japanese representative just seem to odd to me based on how much Japan has contributed to this industry.

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  • 15+ year mobile application industry veteran, probably product managing multiple apps. If he's not busy running this website, you can probably find him at the gym shooting half court shots, while playing the latest mobile rpg game.

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