The New Definition Of "Pro Gamer" In Japan

Image: JeSU
Image: JeSU

In Japanese, “pro gamer” previously had one definition: a gamer who got money to play. Hence, a professional. Today, the word was given a new definition by the newly established Japan Esports Union.

The organization is supported by Japanese gaming’s biggest organizations (such as CESA and JAMMA) and will issue pro gamer licenses for a small number of titles and hold tournaments with prize money. Because of Japanese law, it’s been difficult for pro gaming to take off in the country, so an organization like this, along with official professional gaming licenses, could help overcome those legal obstacles.


IT Media reports that at a presentation today, the Japan Esports Union, or JESU, sorry, JeSU, listed these four points in its pro gamer definition (プロゲーマーの定義 or puro geemaa no teigi):

- Self-awareness of being a professional

- Demonstrate sportsmanship when playing

- Be dedicated to outstanding results in JESU officially-recognized titles

- Contribute to the development of domestic esports

Currently, the only officially recognized games are Winning Eleven 2018, Call of Duty: WWII, Street Fighter V: Arcade Edition, Tekken 7, Puzzle & Dragons and Monster Strike. Expect more titles to become officially recognized in the future.

The pro gaming license lasts for two years. Besides doing well in one of the officially recognized games, players need to take a written pledge to adhere to the above four points and take a short training course.

Considering the legal hoops that pro gaming has to jump through in Japan, perhaps creating an awkward and closed system like this is the only way the country’s pro gaming scene can grow?


Kotaku East is your slice of Asian internet culture, bringing you the latest talking points from Japan, Korea, China and beyond. Tune in every morning from 4am to 8am.

Originally from Texas, Ashcraft has called Osaka home since 2001. He has authored six books, including most recently, The Japanese Sake Bible.

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The problem with the Japanese pro-gaming scene has a lot to do with culture and lifestyle. In Japan, competitive gaming mostly consists of fighting titles such as Street Fighter, Tekken, and some mobile games. None of these titles receive a great deal of financial support, whether it’s brand sponsors or developer money.

Notice that most of the large competitive games almost do not have a competitive scene in Japan? Dota 2, LoL, CS:GO, and Overwatch etc are some of the most lucrative games around, but almost no professional players or teams (in those titles) come from Japan.

I believe it has a lot to do with the Japanese’ preference for mobile and console gaming. Unfortunately, games that are on console or mobiles do not fit into the esports monetisation system well. As an example, a recent estimate puts Valve’s Dota 2 at over $400million in revenue per annum. That is for a free-to-play game that revolves around a competitive scene.

Unless Japanese players start to play more PC titles that are internationalised, I doubt the esports scene in Japan would grow larger than one with a few exceptional fighting game players.