When individuals talk about sports, especially in the United States of America, four sports come to mind: Football, Basketball, Baseball, and Hockey. These sports are filled with superb athletes who have most likely trained since they were young to compete against various athletes across their states and across the country. Some of these sports even expand internationally, most notably through the Olympics. There are many different sports being played around the world as well, such as Soccer, Golf, Tennis, Cricket, Swimming, and Rugby, just to name a few.
But what if I told you that there was a new sport on the rise? A sport that requires very minimal body movement. A sport that can be played on a competitive level at a very young age, such as 13 years old. I am talking about eSports (also spelled as E-Sports).
eSports are competitive gaming leagues with many fans worldwide. They are played by gamers who compete professionally in many of the video games that some of us have been playing for years: Madden, FIFA, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Call of Duty, Overwatch, World of Warcraft, League of Legends, and even Fortnite.
Nonetheless, many individuals do not consider competitive gaming as a sport, but that trend is about to change.
At the outset, competitive gaming encompasses many of the same aspects of other sports. Video games require quick reflexes, careful thought, and the will to overcome a worthy opponent. Other similarities include the fact that many of the games are team-based. eSports events sell out stadiums, the events are aired on television or streamed through streaming services like Twitch, and there are even drafts for some games, such as the National Basketball League (NBA) 2K franchise.
Additionally, it is tough to deny eSports is a sport when there are other traditional sports beginning to endorse this phenomenon. For instance, the National Basketball Association (“NBA”) was one of the first of the “big four” sports leagues to venture directly into eSports. Since May 2018, the NBA worked together with Take-Two Interactive Software to put together the NBA 2k League. The NBA 2k League participates in actual scouting, a player combine and an actual draft at Madison Square Garden, with Adam Silver, the NBA commissioner, presiding. The league currently consists of 21 teams, all represented and owned by their real-life NBA counterpart. It would not surprise me if other major sports leagues begin to recognize the growth of such a competitive atmosphere which contains so much potential.
Furthermore, the economic growth of eSports supports their rise into the “sports world.” According to studies by the research firm Newzoo, revenue for eSports will increase by more than $250 million to reach an estimated $905.6 million in 2018. The industry has the potential to reach revenues close to $1.4 billion by the year 2020. These trends are not going unnoticed. In fact, non-gaming brands such as ESPN, Gillette, T-Mobile, BMW, and Mercedes Benz are just a few that are investing millions. There are even celebrities like Mariah Carey, Shaquille O’Neal, Steve Aoki, Alex Rodriquez, Mark Cuban, and Drake who are buying into the rise of eSports.
Finally, and most importantly, the viewers. Although there are many individuals who do not consider eSports a sport, those same individuals cannot deny the popularity of this genre. All indications are pointing to eSports becoming the next “big thing.” According to Newzoo, the global eSports audience will rise from 143.2 million to 380.2 million in 2018. What is fascinating about eSports is that the viewers vary in age. Of course, you have your younger audience that enjoy watching eSports because it involves their favorite game, or in some cases their favorite gamer. But you also have your older audience that not only enjoy the games, but actually appreciate the competitive nature in which these games are played.
I, myself, can speak to that. I am 24 years old and get so engulfed in watching professional gamers compete at such a high level. It is interesting to observe because these are games that I would play and even believe that I was somewhat decent at playing. But when you see these professionals playing for enormous prize pools, you are witnessing a level of gaming that is unbelievable to watch. Some, if not all players, put in a minimum of 10 hours a day playing their respective games. The amount of skill and effort these players put into these games is remarkable. I honestly believe, that the amount of preparation these players go through for competitive gameplay is very similar to that of other athletes in traditional sports.
Of course, with the rise of eSports comes the rise of legal issues. Now that we are all in agreement that eSports is an actual sport, I plan to discuss the various legal issues that can be involved with eSports. Although eSports can involve many different games, I will not be going through legal aspects pertaining to a specific game and the corresponding league for that game. Instead, I will talk about general legal aspects that can arise in any eSports league.
There can be many different legal aspects that play a part within eSports. One legal aspect I will be discussing is the area of contracts. I will go through the importance of contracts in the world of eSports and what clauses a solid contract would contain. Another legal aspect I will discuss are intellectual property rights. I will elaborate on various intellectual property rights that are involved in eSports and what role they play in eSports. Lastly, I will talk about gambling and what complications may arise. I will discuss the implication of the Murphy ruling and how it can affect the world of eSports.
This paper will start with a brief discussion about the structure of eSports and how it should be managed. Then the paper will break into the different legal issues involved in eSports as explained above. Each section will be broken down to explain what these issues entail and what can be expected. Lastly, the paper will conclude with what the future may hold for the world of eSports.