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The Influence of Anime Culture in the Rise of eSports


It is hardly a secret that the eSports industry has been booming lately, celebrating games like Fortnite and League of Legends that have rightfully attained the status of cultural icons. What is less widely acknowledged, though, is the significant contribution of the Asian market to this unprecedented growth. Could the region’s cultural proximity to the anime tradition have a role to play in that?

Asia Drives eSports Growth

Let’s face it: eSports and gaming are growing by the day, and Asian gamers are practically driving this trend, along with their US counterparts. According to the latest research by Statista, in 2019 alone 37% of the global eSports market revenue will come from North America, with China coming in second at 19% and South Korea standing out in 6%. The rest of the world, including vibrant gaming markets like Japan, will bring in the remaining 38%. And some of the most successful pro gamers are Asian or come from an Asian background – like Dota 2 legends Zeng Hongda, Zhang Ruida and Chen Zhihao, Eclipse player Chu Zeyu, or even Canada-born gamer Kurtis Ling.

Source: Pexels

A Shared Culture?

The industry is well-received in the region, with reports that fans now see eSports tournaments offering pool prizes of up to $30 million. Even though the Asian market is really diverse in terms of culture, with China, Japan, or South Korea each holding on to their unique approach to gaming, it is also evident that the rise of eSports across these countries has tapped into a shared background. And one of the building blocks of this common cultural background is undoubtedly the strong connection of the region to anime and its variants. For one, the playfulness and creativity associated with anime culture has also pushed forward the love for gaming, and especially pro gaming in the eSports industry.

The Anime Artwork Factor

There is undoubtedly a certain artistic connection between the anime genre and some of the most popular video games out there. The Tekken video gaming series, which originated in Japan, has become one of the most successful fighting video game titles of all time. Part of its undeniable appeal is the wide range of playable characters that it offers, which have a very particular anime artwork quality to them – especially central characters like Kazuya Mishima, Jin Kazama and Heihachi Mishima, who are the focus of the game’s plot. In more recent titles, the hit game Fortnite has also paid tribute to anime art, particularly in designing characters such as Nara or Snowstrike.

Based on the underlying connection between the two industries, could we perhaps soon see more eSports/anime crossovers, like the highly popular Chinese The King’s Avatar (Quan Zhi Gao Shou) anime?