Legal and Technical Issues Galore as Esports Continue to Grow Rapidly in India – The Wire

Legal and Technical Issues Galore as Esports Continue to Grow Rapidly in India – The Wire

Lionel Messi, Roger Federer, Virat Kohli and Tiger Woods – these are names that need no introduction. These people define traditional sports. However, with technological advancement and the mobile revolution, like everything else, sports has also moved online.

And “esports” have turned online gaming into a spectator sport.

What are esports? Basically, according to the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, an esport is “a video game played as a competition for people to watch as entertainment”. They replicate the experience of watching a professional sporting event, except instead of watching a physical event, spectators watch video gamers or e-athletes compete against each other. A 2019 Forbes report suggests that the viewership of traditional sports is on the decline while esports’ viewership is on the rise. In 2022, there were 532 million esports viewers worldwide.

It is no surprise that the esports scene in India is also on the rise. BGMI, PUBG, Call of Duty, Tekken 7, DOTA 2, FIFA are amongst the more popular esports in India. On December 27, 2022, the government of India integrated esports with traditional sports disciplines and recognised it as part of a ‘multisport’ event. Thus, esports in India now come under the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs. India is one of the fastest-growing esports markets in the world.

A man opens the PUBG app on his mobile phone after the government blocked 118 more mobile applications on September 2. Photo: PTI

According to an EY report, esports will generate a total economic impact of over Rs 100 billion through investments, direct industry revenues, in-app purchases and other revenues and create more than 11,000 direct and indirect jobs by 2025.

Recently, the Indian DOTA 2 squad won a bronze medal at the Commonwealth Esports Championship. There are several such esports tournaments organised every year on an international level in which India participates. For instance, the upcoming Asian Games will host esports as a recognised medal event. According to FICCI-EY Media and Entertainment Report 2022, the number of esports players doubled from 3,00,000 in 2020 to 6,00,000 in 2021, and esports revenue grew by 29% from Rs 7.5 billion in 2020 to Rs 9.7 billion in 2021. It is estimated that the number of esports players will reach one million in 2022, out of which 20% would be women.

It is often seen in traditional sports that players become a brand in themselves and thus generate a lot of revenue. The esports arena is no different. With the esports industry flourishing in India like the traditional sports industry, it is natural for e-athletes to generate traction and revenue.

In traditional sports, players usually have managers to help make sophisticated business decisions and navigate through legal situations. Earlier most professional esports players would begin their esports career self-represented, leaving them fairly exposed to abuse. However, now more professional esports players/athletes (player and e-athlete will be used interchangeably) in India prefer to have formal contracts with esports organisations in India to participate in leagues and tournaments. However, the lack of regulatory bodies often causes problems for e-athletes in understanding and securing their rights in a contract.

Initially, esports players were mostly covered under contract law because their only form of revenue came from tournament winnings. With time, teams have increased their control over players, their conduct and even their brand management and consequently, esports player contracts often take the …….