Street Fighter? FIFA? The current state of e-sports in Japan

Have you ever heard of the term, e-sports?
Overseas, there are many professionals in this sport, and it has recently received consideration as a possible Olympic event as well… But still, to those who don’t know, this may all be very difficult to understand.
Every year in December, Fields Research Institute conducts the leisure survey Fields Yoka Survey (FYS), and in the FYS2018(*1), conducted last December, performed a study on e-sports. This report will reveal the results of that study.

■3 out of 4 people didn’t know “e-sports”

According to Japan e-Sports Association (JeSPA)’s website(, e-sports are defined as:
“An abbreviation of ‘electronic sports’, […] which is a name that indicates a sports competition in which matches are played using computer games and video games.”
With this being the definition, how well-known is this?
First of all, when we surveyed people on their knowledge about e-sports, we found that 74% (about 3 out of 4) responded that they “did not know much/did not know” about it, and so we can ascertain that most people are still unfamiliar with this sport.


When we further explained what e-sports was, and asked if people understood what it contained or entailed, 3% responded that they “understood very well,” while 15% said they “understood somewhat,” for a combined percentage of 18%, indicating that e-sports was not very well known to many people.
When we took a look at the distribution ratios of people who responded that they “understood very well” or “understood somewhat,” males in their twenties* were the most prevalent, and males between ages 20 and 40 were large.
* For the sake of convenience regarding categories, 19 year olds were included among people in their twenties.

■A participation rate was only 0.4%

Next, we conducted a survey on people’s experiences participating as an athlete/competitor, as well as regarding the viewing of matches live in stadiums or via broadcasts.
Only 0.4% of people had ever participated as an athlete/competitor. 4.9% of respondents have ever viewed a competition, with 0.8% having attended match live, and 4.4% having viewed a broadcast via television or the internet.

As there is the issue of possessing the necessary skills in order to participate as an athlete/competitor, making that a rather difficult hurdle to clear, these numbers would seem to be plausible.
In regard to viewership, viewing options not only include satellite broadcasting and internet streaming, but have also expanded to include terrestrial broadcasts as well, and is thought to be on the rise.

■Domestic titles are popular both among participants and viewers

Finally, we surveyed what titles people were people participating as athlete/competitors, and as viewers. In regard to participation and viewership, we had respondents provide 3 titles, in order of frequency.
In regard to participant titles, as the number of participants was extremely small, there were many rankings that were of the same percentage. For reference purposes, the top ranked titles were as follows:

First place was a tie between FIFA series and Shadowverse. Other than FIFA series (EA Sports/USA), all ranked titles were domestic titles. Most were sports games, mainly soccer, and the fact that smartphone app titles were also among the ranked titles was unique.
If we also look at titles ranked below the top 10, we find that although many different titles were provided by the respondents, we see a long tail distribution occurring in that the number of participants for each title is extremely small. This effect can be said to be a unique characteristic that is due to the notion that we are still at the dawn of an e-sports age in Japan.

Next, we studied the rankings of viewed titles, and here we found that Street Fighter series was the overwhelming No.1 ranked game. While the prevalence of sports game shared the same tendencies as participant titles, we also found that fighting games such as the Tekken series, and League of Legend and Call of Duty series – which are popular overseas as well – were ranked highly as well.
While we found several foreign titles which are popular overseas as well among the rankings, when considering the fact that domestic titles occupied the top spots (irrespective of the many other popular foreign titles), we can see that the Japanese market has its own unique trends.

So in the future, as the e-sports market in Japan continues to expand, will the same titles that are popular in overseas markets become popular here as well? Or will it continue to grow in its current shape – as a uniquely Japanese market dominated by domestic titles – and become an influential presence that can affect global markets? We are very interested in what comes next.

■Recommended Articles

・VR with smells sends my heart racing, and planning for the first global eSports competition! Part 1
・Japan Amusement Expo Report -3 New Trends- First half
・A report on the “JAPAN e-SPORTS LEAGUE” final tournament -First half-

(Article by:Ota)

Fields Research Institute (FRI) conducts research in entertainment.
This article was written by a member of FRI, through the original coverage of his/her interests observed in their daily lives.

(※1)Fields Yoka Survey 2018
A web survey carried out in December 2017 which surveyed 11,642 people across the nation from elementary school age to 69 years of age. It queried their behaviors in relation to and their sense of values regarding free time.


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