The Tokyo Game Show attracted more than 240,000 visitors over four days in September. On the first day, players from Japan and Taiwan faced off in a baseball video game, and the crowd loved it.
The game, "WBSC Power Pros," was jointly developed by the World Baseball Softball Confederation and Japanese firm Konami Digital Entertainment.
Their tie-up is proving a success, but interest in real-world baseball and softball is waning among children. Both sports are suffering from a low adoption rate, and were consequently delisted from the Olympics after the Beijing Games in 2008. They did appear at the Tokyo Olympics two years ago, but only as additional events.
WBSC officials believe esports can be a big part of the solution. Executive Director Michael Schmidt insists Konami can help baseball reach a wider and more diverse range of people across the globe.
Realistic gameplay proves a hit
WBSC official Nagai Yusuke has been promoting the project with Konami. He says people have responded positively to the game's use of realistic baseball strategies. "It provides a lot of guidance, like how to hit, run and defend."
"WBSC Power Pros" has been downloaded in more than 140 countries and regions, and Nagai says a significant portion come from Europe and Southeast Asia, where promoting baseball is notoriously tough.
Global business data platform Statista put the global market value of esports in 2022 at nearly 1.4 billion dollars. The industry is expected to continue expanding, and even the International Olympic Committee wants a piece of the pie.
The IOC held a large-scale esports tournament in June, with "ebaseball" selected as one of the events.
Konami pitches in with promotion drive
Konami Corporate Officer Yamamoto Tatsuhiko says an increase in both gamers and baseball fans could be a win-win situation. "We hope that by working with the WBSC, which is active around the world, our titles will gain more exposure."
And Konami is really lowering the entry barrier. The download price of "WBSC Power Pros" is less than one dollar. Officials say they are focusing less on profit, and more on promoting the popularity of baseball in the world of video gaming.
The collaboration between the WBSC and Konami doesn't just stop there. In March, the Japanese firm helped promote baseball by sending used gear to Africa.
And in November next year, the two entities will seek to break new ground by simultaneously holding international baseball and ebaseball competitions at Tokyo Dome stadium in the Japanese capital.