PlayBrain CEO Says Japan’s Esports Industry is in “Opportunity Period”

Japan has been a pillar of the broader videogames industry for decades. Companies like Sony and Nintendo have been pivotal parts of the growth of gaming since the early days. When it comes to esports, however, Japan has been more follower than innovator. Restrictive gambling and advertising laws prevented organizers and developers from supporting tournaments with large prize pools.

In the last year, however, some of those restrictions have been loosened, opening the door for companies to more actively grow Japan’s esports industry. The Esports Observer spoke to the CEO of one such company, PlayBrain’s Mike Sheetal, about one of Japan’s major esports growth opportunities: broadcast technology.

PlayBrain operates tournaments for a variety of games, and most notably serves at the operator for the League of Legends Japan League in partnership with Riot Games. Sheetal explained that with the rapid growth of Japan’s esports industry, expectations are also on the rise which can only be met through new technology.

“There’s been about a 13-times multiplier on the size of the esports market in the last year, which is pretty impressive growth. What we’re seeing now is that the demand is coming to actually deliver the high class experiences because there’s a lot of players who thought they were players in the market, then all of a sudden realized they don’t have the capabilities to deliver the broadcast experiences that are expected by the fans. It’s really an opportunity period in the Japanese market.”

Part of that enhanced broadcast experience is the proper presentation of data in realtime. The Western esports industry has seen companies like SAP enter the space to provide data solutions which allow broadcasters and commentators to call up statistics and information during a live competition, similar to what is seen in a traditional sports broadcast.

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While Japan has access to data tools for traditional sports, Sheetal said that these do not really meet the needs of an esports broadcast. Information from an ongoing match must be recorded manually, which is “more expensive and inefficient.” Sheetal feels that esports organizers need to utilize tools which better take advantage of the digital nature of the product.

“I think the reason that we’re trying to look like traditional sports is because there’s a familiarity to a mass market in the visual style, but you don’t need to borrow the data visualization from them. That’s something that we’ve been able to have more access to on the gaming side already…As long as the game developer makes it available, we already have all of that data at our fingertips.”

Having identified this opportunity, PlayBrain is actively working on a toolset “specifically designed for the esports broadcast experience.” Sheetal said that there are no similar esports-specific solutions available in Japan.

According to Sheetal, the “immature market” for esports in Japan presents multiple opportunities for new technology services to enhance the viewing experience. He identified the “second screen experience” as one key opportunity. “I don’t think the Japanese fans are expecting that yet, and there’s a big opportunity waiting for that,” he said.

Additionally, Sheetal believes that the Japanese market would welcome services that provide advanced analytics both for broadcasters and for the teams themselves.

“I think that already the West is starting to move on advanced analytics on esports players. We’re not on that level yet in Japan, but I think that’s something. Japanese people love information. This is one of those things that’s going to help us get way more insights, not only into the fan experience, but also for the player development experience as well.”

Want to hear more about technology in esports? Mike Sheetal will be a speaker at the HIVE esports business conference in Berlin on April 11, 2019. The first international esports business conference in Europe’s capital of esports. An unprecedented conference format featuring thought leaders of industries adjacent to esports sharing their insights. Click here to reserve your seat!


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