Esports stands for “electronic sports.” It describes the world of competitive, organized video gaming. It allows people from all over the world to connect and play games together in real time. In 2020, there were 496 million esports followers. It is predicted that, by 2023, there will be 646 million esports followers.
There are several factors that contribute to the increase in the popularity of esports: (1) increase in awareness, (2) more platforms offering live esports coverage, (3) people spend more time watching esports, (4) brands are investing, (5) growth in esports tournaments, and lastly, (6) COVID-19. The first six factors all correlate – more people are interested in esports, which draw more attention, which causes it to be a good investment for brands, which causes the popularity to increase. Luckily for the esports community, COVID-19 expedited this process. When stay-at-home orders and other COVID-19 regulations were put into place worldwide, people needed something to do. Esports allowed people to connect with others while playing sports online.
While in-person tournaments were temporarily halted, people watched other gamers play video games live via outlets like Twitch. In 2014, Twitch was acquired by Amazon. “Twitch is a platform for live video streaming, offering nearly anything you’d want to watch, from cooking, music, Q&A sessions, and [ ] video games.” According to the Twitch User Statistics, there are nearly 15 million daily viewers with about 140 million monthly users.
Generally, the publisher and/or developer of the game own the legal rights. For example, the content, characters, and gameplay are all owned by the publisher or developer. Therefore, issues can arise “when leagues and online streaming platforms use the game at public events.” To be able to do this, a license must be obtained from the owner.
When discussing whether there should be eSports laws, the American Bar Association stated, “there are unresolved questions over if and how eSports may qualify for government grants, subsidies, tax reliefs, or even unique taxes, applied to traditional sports in many countries.” Other issues that are to be considered when determining what, if any, laws will govern eSports are child protection, age ratings, and consumer affairs. Some areas of law that may govern eSports include commercial issues, intellectual property, gambling, mergers & acquisitions, player contracts, and advertising & merchandise. It is possible that eSports will grow so popular that it will need its own field of law.
THE FUTURE OF ESPORTS
As the trends show, the popularity of esports is only going to continue to grow. Almost a year after the pandemic began, in-person gatherings are being held again. Currently, there are arenas dedicated solely to esports.
Esports Arena is North America’s first dedicated esports facility. Since launching its first arena in Orange County, California, the company has opened 13 additional locations throughout the United States. The Esports Arenas are “capable of hosting large scale events, [ ] tournaments, leagues, broadcasts, launches, as well as provide retail products and branding.”
Other highly rated esports arenas include Blizzard Arena in Burbank, California; HyperX Esports Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada; Esports Stadium in Arlington, Texas; Fusion Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Chongqing Zhongxian E-Sports Stadium in Southwestern China. These arenas range in size from 15,000 square feet to 100,000 square feet. Some arenas are home to large championship tournaments, while others allow the public to pay for “game time” to play in the arena.
Recently, OverActive Media announced that it plans to open a $500 million esports and entertainment venue in Toronto, Canada. It is projected to have 7,000 seats and be completed by 2025. In addition to serving as the “home for OverActive Media’s Call of Duty League and Overwatch League franchises, Toronto Ultra and Toronto Defiant,” it plans to host more than 200 events a year, including music and entertainment.