Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB) and Konami have announced that they will host a baseball league starting this autumn. The eBaseball Pawapuro Pro League will be using the 2018 edition of “Jikkyo Powerful Pro Yakyu” series, internationally known as Power Pros.
NPB Commissioner Atsushi Saito was in attendance during the press conference at Konami’s headquarters in Tokyo. Along with 2017 Power Pro winner Maepi, they threw a ceremonial first pitch to celebrate the announcement. The league will consist of 36 participants, qualifying through a series of online tournaments through September.
There will then be a draft held on 29th September, where the 12 NPB teams will each choose 3 players to represent them in the Central and Pacific Leagues. With ¥12m (£82,200) in total prize pool money and an official partnership with NPB, this is a significant development in the acceptance of esports in Japan.
This is yet another professional sports league entering the esports space, with the National Basketball Association (NBA) partnering with 2K and FIFA hosting its 14th eWorld Cup. Their success, along with esports’ constant growth, has spurred the NPB to partner with Konami and test the waters.
Power Pros is a series developed and published by Konami since 1994, known for its cartoon style and arcade gameplay, it remains a commercial success in Japan with over 21.4m copies sold. They have released a new iteration every single year, with past iterations featuring players from the North American Major League Baseball (MLB) and Korea Baseball Organization (KBO).
Esports Insider says: In a growing trend of sports leagues stepping into the esports realm, this represents an important move on the global scale. If successful, this could prompt a swift response from other sports leagues to enter the space as a new way to engage fans.