Competitive gaming, or eSports, has taken large strides and has reached incredible heights over the last two years. The concept is simple: take a game and make it competitive at the highest level, allowing spectators to watch and enjoy the fast paced action until an ultimate winner is decided, and potential prize money is awarded.
eSports has fully legitimized as a spectator sport and a business model. Multiple leagues have taken form such as Major League Gaming, who reported 11.7 million viewers in 2012 over the course of their four weekend-long events. A little over one year ago, Twitch.tv was created, an entirely gaming specific live streaming website that took the internet by storm; about 16 million people a month are watching eSports related content. In April, MLG partnered with twitch.tv and CBS Interactive, a subsidiary of the CBS which owns America’s most watched television network and maintains and runs the popular gaming website Gamespot. The deal gives CBS Interactive exclusive rights to the broadcasting of MLG pro circuit events as well as for advertising representation. While this doesn’t mean we will start seeing MLG events on TV, it is certainly a step in that direction. To top it all off, the Season 2 Summoner’s Cup Finals for League of Legends was held at the end of October and was the most watched single-day eSports event of all time recording 1.1 million peak concurrent online viewers and over 8.2 million unique viewers throughout the 2.5 hour match. The 1.1 million concurrent online viewers is more than double any previous record held by an eSports event.
One of the biggest questions people have about eSports is how the contracts work. In a recent book entitled Raising the Stakes by T. L. Taylor, the author provides a sample contract for the audience. The contract goes over everything from practice hours to insurance policies, but there are a few interesting clauses regarding player and team obligations.
First, it was interesting to note that according to this standard contract the eSports industry is aware of the fact that players are seen as role models to many and have taken precautions in their contracts to protect that aspect of the industry, as well as the name and reputation of their team. In the sample contract provided in Taylor’s book, section 3.14 states that:
“PLAYER accepts that he is a role model and therefore he shall not consume alcohol in public, or use drugs either in private or in public or engage in other activities which constitute a violation of criminal laws n the countries where PLAYER is domiciled or is acting on behalf of the CLUB.”
Followed by section 3.15 which states:
“Nor shall PLAYER engage in activities that will jeopardize or are likely to jeopardize his image as a role model.”
These two clauses combined represent protection for both the industry, in terms of reputation and public outlook. Also in the contract is a violation against the former clauses, section 6.1.4 which states:
“Failure on part of PLAYER to comply with 3.14 shall trigger payment of a compensation equals two months of compensation paid by the CLUB according to clause 4 [Club Obligations]. If repeated the CLUB shall be entitled to terminate the contract without warning and without any further payments to PLAYER.”
This clause is obviously for penalizing those players who do not act in a fashion worthy of being a role-model.
With eSports growing, some people think it will one day be as big as real sports and think we might even see it become a curricular activity in undergraduate programs. While the standard contract we saw today is likely similar to many standard sports contracts, competitive gaming itself has yet to become uniform in nature and the legal issues residing with it are mostly undefined.
Right now, the industry is quiet with its contracts and salaries so unless you’ve been on either end of that contract, or drafted it yourself, you’re not likely to see one anytime soon. I think that eventually this will change, and the industry will become more uniform in nature and open with its negotiations. This will allow for the highest of competition amongst the teams, and the fairest of salaries amongst the players.
Eventually these contracts will all have clauses like the disallowance of playing organized sports to help prevent injury, as well as clauses for payment decreases while your injured or playing poorly (the latter actually does appear in section 4.12 of the sample contract above). One thing is for sure, as the industry grows larger and as more legal issues begin to arise, these contracts will become more and more complex.