Asia Nikkei: Legal barriers hobble esports in Japan

ggx2ac

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A lot more at the link: http://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Trends/Legal-barrier-hobbles-esports-in-game-crazy-Japan

Where you can earn millions of dollars from esports in parts of the world, Japanese events only let you win ~$895

Esports is already big business in the U.S., Europe and parts of Asia, where purses for some events can soar to the tens of millions of dollars.

The prize money in Japan is pocket change by comparison.

That is because of the act against unjustifiable premiums and misleading representations, which puts a 100,000 yen ($895) cap on cash prizes for events deemed to be aimed at selling a specific product.
Hirokazu Hamamura, President of Gzbrain and a director of a few esports associations is disappointed by the lack of embrace for esports because he wants to make money.

Hirokazu Hamamura, president of newly established game company Gzbrain, says the cash prize limit is stifling business opportunities.
"If it weren't for that law, we could hold as many big-prize events as we like," said Hamamura, whose company was launched on July 3 by Kadokawa Dwango.

Hamamura, who long served as chief editor of gaming weekly Famitsu, is now director of multiple esports associations. He said he was disappointed by how slow Japan has been to embrace esports, and sees it as a missed chance.

"Esports significantly changes the way we enjoy games, and it creates new opportunities to make money," Hamamura said.
Hamamura thinks that aside from legal barriers, esports has not caught on in Japan due to how foreign PCs are.

He said the legal issue was the biggest barrier, but Hamamura thinks there is another reason esports is not bigger in Japan. "Esports is mainly about games played on PCs, and Japanese gamers are not that familiar with this genre," he said.
Mixi, the creators of Monster Strike had a 20 million yen cash prize event in 2016 but the Consumer Affairs Agency prevented any further large cash prize events.

In 2016, for example, Tokaigi, a major gaming event held by Dwango, had players battling for 20 million yen in prizes over Mixi's "Monster Strike" game.

But the trend toward bigger purses quickly ended last summer, following the Consumer Affairs Agency's response to an inquiry about whether cash prizes paid to winners in a planned competitive event held to promote a particular game constituted a reward to lure people to spend on products or services -- in this case, any fees or purchases related to games featured in the event.

The agency's answer was a clear "yes." It said that prizes in such cases can never exceed 100,000 yen.
Using sponsors (Which Mixi did) to provide the cash prizes rather than the game companies proved to be futile.

But attorney Shohei Furukawa, an expert on compliance with the law in question, warned that even that strategy carries risk.
"The decision about who is providing the products or services is made comprehensively, so even if you separate the payers [of prizes] in practice, it is possible that they will be considered part [of the organizers]," Furukawa said.
Revising the law regarding cash prizes to favour esports seems unlikely, would need professional gamers to be exempt from the cash prize restrictions.

One possibility is to revise the act itself to exempt esports. But Furukawa said doing so would be difficult. "I don't think revisions not directly aimed at enhancing consumer protection are likely," he said.

Furukawa said one possible way around the payout cap is to limit esports events to professional gamers.

"Now that it has become a law to protect consumers, it would seem rather strange if it were applied even to events played by pros," he said. Furukawa said that any cash rewards given to pros should be considered exempt from the act.
Gzbrain's Hamamura is looking at making a licensing system akin to professional Shogi to legally be able to award large cash prizes.

"We're looking to the Japan Shogi Association as a model," Gzbrain's Hamamura said, referring to the association for the traditional Japanese board game, which offers large cash prizes for title matches. "We hope to explore the possibility of establishing a licensing system for professional gamers."
 

nephilimdj

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Noone has been creative yet? Maybe make membership $1 and for legal reasons the team subsidizes $894. Every team has 500 members
 

LiveFromKyoto

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Japanese bureaucracy = max bureaucracy. At least in those really repressive countries you can just bribe someone. I don't expect this to change any time soon.
 

Seyavesh

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8.95 strikes once again

anyways yeah i didn't think about this for evo japan
wonder how that's gonna work
 

ggx2ac

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Noone has been creative yet? Maybe make membership $1 and for legal reasons the team subsidizes $894. Every team has 500 members
Hmm?

If you're talking about having gamers contributing to the cash pool rather than game companies or sponsors, that would be considered gambling which is already covered in the article in the link.
 

ggx2ac

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danmaku

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I guess all the sponsored fighting games players have contracts with foreign organizations so they get a free pass?
 

duckroll

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I guess all the sponsored fighting games players have contracts with foreign organizations so they get a free pass?
It might not be that. I think it is quite clear what the law is meant to prevent. The issue being that the "tournament" in question was Monster Strike - a F2P mobile gacha game.
 

Phu

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They should give the winners certain coins or cards that are 'worthless' aside from showing that they won. Then the winners can take their prizes to a 'totally unrelated business' that just happens to pay exorbitant prices for such rare collectible items.
 

Easy_D

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It's stupid how Pachislot machines can circumvent laws but you can't host esports lmao. Japan why you gotta be so backwards sometimes?
 

TheBryanJZX90

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Oh shit never knew about that law, I guess that's why drift events in Japan always have such shitty cash prizes too
 

patapuf

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Hm.. how about exchanging the medals to some totally unrelated business that just happens to pay good money for them?
 

marmoka

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Overall I don't see it bad to have a limit in prices and salaries for entertainment all over the world. Considering all the millions actors, singers, sport players and computer game players win for just singing, acting, running behind a ball or just by playing videogames, while other citizens just get low salaries for making the world a better place, there should be a limit in the entertainment industry. But 800 bucks is quite precarious.

But well, playing videogames is a hobby in the end. If you can get some money by playing, that's fine, but if you cannot live with the earnings it gives, then you should get a real job.
 

HardRojo

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Overall I don't see it bad to have a limit in prices and salaries for entertainment all over the world. Considering all the millions actors, singers, sport players and computer game players win for just singing, acting, running behind a ball or just by playing videogames, while other citizens just get low salaries for making the world a better place, there should be a limit in the entertainment industry. But 800 bucks is quite precarious.

But well, playing videogames is a hobby in the end. If you can get some money by playing, that's fine, but if you cannot live with the earnings it gives, then you should get a real job.
Do you also believe Twitch and YouTube are not "real jobs"?
 

Tu101uk

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Overall I don't see it bad to have a limit in prices and salaries for entertainment all over the world. Considering all the millions actors, singers, sport players and computer game players win for just singing, acting, running behind a ball or just by playing videogames, while other citizens just get low salaries for making the world a better place, there should be a limit in the entertainment industry. But 800 bucks is quite precarious.

But well, playing videogames is a hobby in the end. If you can get some money by playing, that's fine, but if you cannot live with the earnings it gives, then you should get a real job.
Things have changed from the early days of "video games are a hobby". Professional gaming and e-sports is growing at an accelerated pace and there are gamers (for example in teams for games like LoL or as individuals for Fighting Games) earning in excess of what other people are doing working a typical 9-5 job. There is a reason why big companies and organisations like sports teams are lining up to grab and sponsor the latest esports stars.

Some countries and organisations are bending over backwards to accommodate this growing trend (as an example France have relaxed tax laws and have created a great environment for growth), however Japan is a country full of red tape and it's a shame that their outdated gambling and winnings regulations can't keep up with the trends of tomorrow.

Of course, like any competitive industry, if you want to be the best and earn enough to live on, you will have to consider all offers made to you and if Japanese gamers want to turn pro they can do what some are doing now - turning to foreign teams to support them. However it's a huge shame as there is untapped potential in a country where video games were once prevalent. Putting a limit on potential talent basically means outsiders with the money can nab them, and this has been shown in all walks of professional life (football's transfer market is basically this). The earnings are out there already, but Japan and other places with similar restrictions should start relaxing a bit on esports so they can benefit financially too.
 

Piccoro

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If I believe that recording yourself talking about random stuff or just playing videogames is not a real job? I do.
Well you believe wrong, then.
Singing, acting, and being an entertainer in YouTube is obviously a "real job", just like any other job out there.
 

Wardancer

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Overall I don't see it bad to have a limit in prices and salaries for entertainment all over the world. Considering all the millions actors, singers, sport players and computer game players win for just singing, acting, running behind a ball or just by playing videogames, while other citizens just get low salaries for making the world a better place, there should be a limit in the entertainment industry. But 800 bucks is quite precarious.

But well, playing videogames is a hobby in the end. If you can get some money by playing, that's fine, but if you cannot live with the earnings it gives, then you should get a real job.
To quote a famous gif... "That's bait"
 

faridmon

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To be fair, he also neglects to mention that League of Legend was fully released in Japan just 2 years ago with their own server, language pack, etc

Thats also why Moba hasn't taken off. Although Japanese Streamers are fully maximising views with LoL on Youtube (Don't know on Twitch)

But well, playing videogames is a hobby in the end. If you can get some money by playing, that's fine, but if you cannot live with the earnings it gives, then you should get a real job.
Not this shit again
 

Branduil

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It's stupid how Pachislot machines can circumvent laws but you can't host esports lmao. Japan why you gotta be so backwards sometimes?
If there's one thing the Japanese government loves it's observing the exact technical minutia of the law while utterly disregarding the spirit.
 

Sir Doom

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They should win golden pellets at the end where they exchange it for money
EDIT: damn it CircusofClouds
 

KidA Seven

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Yeah this was brought up a while ago by Anna, as she works for Red Bull esports. So there are two ways Japan prevents earn money that the article covered. It's already tough due to a small pc gaming culture there and the perception games have. It's a bummer.
 

Asmodai48

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Overall I don't see it bad to have a limit in prices and salaries for entertainment all over the world. Considering all the millions actors, singers, sport players and computer game players win for just singing, acting, running behind a ball or just by playing videogames, while other citizens just get low salaries for making the world a better place, there should be a limit in the entertainment industry. But 800 bucks is quite precarious.

But well, playing videogames is a hobby in the end. If you can get some money by playing, that's fine, but if you cannot live with the earnings it gives, then you should get a real job.
Whatyearisit
 

Dali

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You can do esports in Japan, I just showed how Bamco did it.
Not really. You showed a picture from last year when the article itself says there was a 20 mil yen payout in another tournament last year too. How they did it (just did it hoping there wouldn't be an issue?) and if they can continue to do it was not something you explained at all.
 

Technoweirdo

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Interesting, didn't know a lot of this. Now I'm even more intrigued to see how EVO Japan is handled.
Shot at the dark: Win EVO Japan, get $895 USD. Also, you're invited to EVO USA with a massive appearance fee that's suspiciously close to what you would've got normally minus $895 and a plane ticket to the US. "It's not a cash prize, it's a contract!"
 

kmax

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Feb 25, 2013
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Yup.

Japanese bureaucracy + the negligible PC market is why E-sports never took off in Japan. It's a catch-22 that isn't going to change anytime soon.
 

Lister

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I wonder if there's some way to push PC gaming more in that country. It would take various companies getting involved, so unlikely, but pushign newer small form factors, and getting more Japanese devs to get in on the platform might help.

At the same time it looks like they are moving away even form consoles and into mobile over there, so who knows if that ship just sailed anyway.
 

ggx2ac

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Lupinko got featured in Kotaku:

http://compete.kotaku.com/what-prevents-esports-from-taking-off-in-japan-1797221468

Lupinko at NeoGAF points out that pro-gamer Saint won a 3 million yen ($26,926) prize at last December’s King of the Iron Fist Tournament in Tokyo. As you can see in these Famitsu photos, the top finalists walked away with prizes that exceeded the 100,000 yen cap.

Namco partnered with pachinko-slot makers Fields and Yamasa for the tournament, but it’s unclear which company put up the prize money. Kotaku reached out to Namco’s spokespeople for clarification, but has yet to hear back.