Japanese football league J.League announced Friday that it will host a tournament in conjunction with Konami. The tournament will take place on July 14th-15th and will feature Konami’s football franchise, Pro Evolution Soccer (PES). Notably, the tournament will be played on their mobile-app version, with the 40 clubs in J.Leagues top two divisions fielding three players each to compete.
Qualifiers begin on March 22nd, culminating in the offline event later in July. J.League Chairman Mitsuru Murai said: “Esports is enjoyed by people of different generations, gender and whether they have disabilities or not. It is a useful way to spread the attractions of soccer.” The mobile version of PES 2019 was updated from PES 2018 in mid-December last year, with the app having accumulated 150 million downloads worldwide by August 2018.
Pro Evolution Soccer was one of the six titles played as part of a demonstration sport last year at the Asian Games in Indonesia, with Japanese players Naoki Sugimura and Tsubasa Aihara taking the gold medal in the game. Interestingly, the game used was the console version of Pro Evolution Soccer 2018, not the mobile version.
The J.League is one of the most successful football leagues operating in Asia, with Japanese clubs Kashima Antlers and Urawa Red Diamonds clinching the Asian Champions League in the last two years. This represents a growing trend of traditional sports leagues and organisations moving into the esports space with the appropriate title in hopes of claiming some market share and attracting younger viewers.
Konami is also producing an esports competition with Japan’s baseball league, Nippon Professional Baseball, using their video game baseball franchise Power Pros.
Esports Insider says: This marks yet another traditional sports league exploring the esports space in their respective sports. We’ve seen some success with the NBA 2K League and the FIFA World Cup allowing leagues like America’s MLS to take part in a larger global circuit. Uniquely this league is using Pro Evolution Soccer, which is a different franchise from EA’s FIFA. If this initial tournament is successful, we could see a larger collaboration with Konami and J.League later this year, meaning good things for esports players in Japan.