The Japan Esports Union (JESU) announced that it will accelerate efforts to enhance the recognition of esports in Japan to prepare for its possible appearance at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as an exhibition event.
According to a report by the Japan Times, the union said will be establishing regional branches across 11 prefectures in the country to provide education and training on organizing esports tournaments.
The planned regional branches will also assist in developing and training local esports players to widen Japan’s pool of esports talent. JESU states that they will begin branching out by January next year.
The announcement came in light of the esports market in Japan growing by an astounding ¥4.8 billion or about $42.5 million this year.
“The popularity of esports has grown from last year to this year and we will push it to a new stage next year,” said JESU chairman Hideki Okamura.
The union also said that a crucial step in raising the level of skill of Japanese esports athletes is to dispatch them to international tournaments or by organizing matches with competitive foreign players.
So far, Japanese players have been dominant in fighting games such as the Street Fighter series and Dragonball FighterZ, among others. However, they have yet to break through to other major esports titles, such as Dota 2, League of Legends, and Overwatch. This is largely due to the PC market in Japan paling in comparison to that of the console and handheld gaming platforms.
JESU said that its planned appearance for esports in the Tokyo Olympics, even if it’s just an exhibition event, will boost the country’s esports scene as a whole.
Esports already debuted as a demonstration event at the Asian Games in Indonesia this summer. It will be a full medal event in the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in the Philippines and in the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.
Not all parties are keen on the growing influence that esports has been enjoying however, as the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said recently that talks of esports becoming an Olympic medal event are still “premature.”
In making an approach to the IOC, Okamura thinks that “elevating the recognition of esports is one solution.”
With that said, the JESU’s efforts can only help the esports scene in Japan grow further. The country has long been one of the top countries in the world for video games, it’s high time that Japan fully embraces esports.