An Introduction to eSports in The UK and its Unique Considerations.
Key Contact: Tessa Laws
Author: Alex Cater
Whether or not you know your Pac-Man from your Sonic, the popularity of video games in the UK shows no signs of abating. In 2022, OFCOM reported that 60% of UK adults engage in gaming and the industry has contributed an estimated £2.8 billion to the UK economy – with trends indicating a further upward trajectory. It is then unsurprising that a sub-section of the market has emerged for competitive video games or “eSports”.
eSports are similar to traditional sports in that individuals or teams compete against each other in tournaments in front of spectators for accolades or prizes but matches are played in a digital arena instead of a physical one. These competitions are already garnering huge viewership both online via streaming and in person in the actual eSports arena, with prize pools reaching the millions.
However, despite its recent successes, the eSports industry is not without growing pains. It is becoming increasingly clear that, while similar to traditional sports, the industry faces unique challenges and some interesting legal considerations.
Players’ commercial gaming contracts must be drafted in the context of the market and address issues such as whether players can be required to “stream” their gameplay to audiences outside of a competition setting or how they can distinguish practising from playing for fun.
Additionally, it is common practice within the industry for players in a team to live together in a “gaming house” in order to better facilitate team management. Not only does this affect the aforementioned contractual arrangements, but it raises real estate concerns – as access to high-speed internet and relevant equipment is an absolute requirement.
Reputation management also becomes essential for all parties as scandals, such as in 2019 when a video game developer punished an eSports player for voicing support for the Hong Kong protests during an official stream, can cause huge drops in viewership, player base and ultimately revenue.
For advice about legal issues impacting the videogame and eSports sectors, contact our Creative Industries team.