Japan Esports Union said Thursday it will accelerate efforts to enhance recognition of competitive video gaming in the country, eyeing possible exposure at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics as an exhibition event.

"The popularity of esports has grown from last year to this year and we will push it to a new stage next year," said Hideki Okamura, the union's chairman, at a news conference in Tokyo.

The union said it will create from next January regional branches across 11 prefectures nationwide to share know-how about organizing esports tournaments or assisting in developing and training local esports players.

It will also seek to raise the level of esports players in Japan by dispatching them to international tournaments or organizing matches with competitive foreign players.

"We think elevating the recognition of esports is one solution in making an approach to the International Olympic Committee or the Japanese Olympic Committee" in pushing for an exhibition of esports at the 2020 Games, Okamura said.

Growing in popularity, especially with the younger generation, esports debuted as a demonstration event at the Asian Games in Indonesia this summer and will be a full medal event at the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China.

Gaming industry publisher Gzbrain Inc. said in a report earlier this week that the esports market in Japan grew to ¥4.8 billion this year, a 13-fold increase from last year, and that it will swell to ¥10 billion in 2022.

The IOC, however, said at a recent meeting that discussion to make esports an Olympic medal event is "premature," citing as one reason the fact that the industry is "commercially driven" while the sports movement supported by the IOC is "values-based."

The Japan Esports Union was created in January to promote esports, conduct related research activities and assist efforts to train players.