Common position of the video game and esports industry
The Spanish Video Game Association (AEVI) is the national trade association of the video game and esports industry in Spain. It gathers the main stakeholders of Spanish esports: official competitions by publishers, such as Activision-Blizzard (Call of Duty World League, Overwatch League), Electronic Arts (FIFA eWorld Cup), Ubisoft (Rainbow 6 Pro League) or Riot Games (League of Legends European Championship); gaming platform owners like Sony Interactive Entertainment (PlayStation), Microsoft (Xbox One) or Nintendo (Nintendo Switch); and the main tournament organisers in the country (LVP, ESL and PlayStation).
With the goal of helping players, media and the public understand this new phenomenon, AEVI has established a common position on video game competitions for the video game and esports industry.
- What does “esports” mean?
Esports is the term commonly used to describe video game tournaments made up of players, teams, leagues, publishers, organisers, broadcasters, sponsors and spectators. People may participate in these tournaments as amateurs or professionals and in online or live settings. Other names for esports are “competitive gaming”, “organised play”, “egaming” or “pro gaming”.
Esports is a general term for tournaments and specific league games; it does not refer to a specific type of game or franchise. In the same way that one cannot compete in ‘sports’, but rather in football, basketball, etc., one cannot compete in esports, but rather in League of Legends, Call of Duty, FIFA, Rainbow Six, Siege, Gran Turismo Sport, Gears of War or Hearthstone.
Competitive gaming and esports are part of a much bigger trend in the entertainment industry that revolves around the collective/social enjoyment of video games.
- What are the principles of esports?
In November 2019, the main global videogame trade associations, including the Interactive Software Federation of Europe (ISFE), of which AEVI is a member, agreed on a set of universal principles applicable to the esports ecosystem. They are:
- Safety and well-being
- Integrity and fair play
- Respect and diversity
- Positive and enriching game play
These principles are elaborated on ISFE’s website and can be consulted at: https://www.isfe.eu/isfe-esports/.
- Who are the key agents in the esports sector?
The main agents in the sector are:
- The publishers. They are the owners of the intellectual and industrial property of video games and franchises.
- The organisers. They design and organise video game tournaments.
- The players. They are the people who participate in tournaments that the organisers arrange.
- The teams. They are entities that hire players to represent them in the tournaments where they participate.
- The broadcasters. They are operators with a platform to distribute the live or on-demand audio-visual content and online media.
One agent may carry out several of these roles.
- How big is esports’ audience?
Esports’ audience has grown significantly in the last few years. According to the consulting firm Newzoo, the audience was 198 million enthusiasts in 2019.According to the same firm, the number of esports enthusiasts in Spain was 2.9 million in 2019.
- How much money do esports make?
According to Newzoo, esports global market revenue was €950 million in 2019, and the forecasted revenue for 2020 is €1.1 billion. Revenue is still small. It represents less than 1% of the global income of the videogames industry. According to AEVI figures, Spain represents 4% of the global esports market.
- What are some of the video games used in esports competitions?
Some of the most popular games in Spain are League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Clash Royale, FIFA, Call of Duty, Hearthstone, Rainbow Six Siege, Gran Turismo Sport, Rocket League, Apex Legends and Fortnite.
- How many tournaments are there in Spain?
Because of the sheer number of amateur tournaments, it is very difficult to provide an actual figure. There are currently four professional leagues whose regulations make it compulsory for teams to have their players under contract and salaried: Superliga Orange League of Legends, Superliga Orange CSGO, Superliga Orange Clash Royale and the Rainbow Six Siege R6 Spain Nationals. There is also a similar number of top-tier international tournaments happening every year, like the tournaments at Dreamhack Valencia. But there are hundreds, if not thousands, of amateur competitions played every year just for the sake of competing or for very small prizes. One good example is the PS4: Challenger Series.
- What types of tournaments currently exist?
There are many types of tournaments, including those run by organisers based on licences from publishers and those run by publishers themselves. The only official competitions are those that are organised or endorsed by a video game’s own publisher.
This is unrelated to the different tournaments’ competitive value for teams and players, depending on the organisational quality, audience reach and revenue of each individual tournament.
- Can anyone be a professional esports player?
Yes. Esports is an open community, and anyone can become a professional player. However, as in many professional endeavours, a great amount of training and talent are necessary to be able to compete professionally.
- Is it true that esports are not regulated? Would specific regulation be useful, and is this the right time to push for it?
In their pioneering report “Régimen jurídico de las competiciones de videojuegos” [The Legal Regime of Video Game Competitions], professors Alberto Palomar and Ramon Terol clarified that esports in Spain are regulated by general laws: trade law, labour law, tax legislation, intellectual and industry property law, ecommerce and protection of consumer legislation, competition law, data protection law, etc., as is the case for most economic activity.
This is not the right time for regulators to create specific legislation, given the short history and limited impact of the industry. At AEVI, we are committed to the growth of the industry and, following the success of other industries, we are working toward identifying self-regulatory measures with the goal of creating an ecosystem that will be a benchmark for esports in Europe.
A good example of this effort is the adoption of the Universal Esports Principles (see above).
Depending on how the sector develops, in the future it may be necessary to discuss whether additional regulation is needed, always in accordance with European developments to avoid a restrictive regulation which could jeopardise Spain’s competitiveness in relation to other countries. At any rate, the current regulations already guarantee the safe and effective operations of the sector in Spain.
- Are esports regulated in other countries?
There are very few examples of countries that have attempted to regulate the sector in some way.
Within the European Union, the only country that has any regulation is France, via two articles in the French Digital Act (Loi pour une République numérique). The regulation is characterised by moving esports away from sport and concentrating on adapting certain existing regulations to clarify some aspects, such as the confusion between esports and gambling.
- Are esports a sport?
Esports is a generic category that refers to video game tournaments of different genres, which require different skills and involve different ways of competing. Some esports activities may be very similar to sports, given their impact on society, competitive spirit or entertainment value. However, they are very different in their practice and organisation.
Esports in different games cannot be classed under the same competitive practice, because, aside from the common element of using software, they vary greatly. Some games require one-on-one skills, some require team strategies, and others are online card games. There is no common ground between these games, and, therefore, there cannot be a ‘discipline’ under an all-encompassing category.
- Could esports be included in sport regulations?
Beyond their different natures, the esports ecosystem is developed upon a very different foundation compared to the structure of sports.
Sports are based on associations and territories, while the esports industry is economic (all the agents are companies) and global, since esports are practised on the internet. Trying to apply the existing global ecosystem in an incompatible context would push the sector back many years, meaning it would no longer be competitive compared to other countries.
The changing panorama of esports, where games appear and disappear every few years and there are technological advances that revolutionise the sector every now and then, requires a legal framework that is not fragmented territorially and that is much more flexible than that of sport legislation in countries like Spain.
Also, as professors Alberto Palomar and Ramón Terol explained in their paper,video games are commercial products with an owner: the publisher that owns the intellectual and industrial property rights. The publisher is responsible for the specific characteristics of the software, a situation that cannot be compared to any sport and cannot be regulated without clashing in many ways with regulatory frameworks such as trademark law, intellectual property law, market regulation and the legitimate rights of publishing houses.
- If chess or pigeon keeping are recognised as a sport in Spain, why shouldn’t esports be recognised as one?
At AEVI, we do not make these sorts of assessments. This type of comparison normally focuses only on specific aspects without considering all the historic, social, cultural and legal circumstances that lead to an activity being recognised as a sport or not. At AEVI we respect all these activities, in the same way that we ask the particularities of video game tournaments to be respected.
- If esports are considered an Olympic sport in Korea, why are they not recognised in Spain?
Esports is not considered an Olympic sport in any country. In 2015, the South Korean Olympic Committee introduced esports temporarily as a ‘second-level’ sport. This status was revoked in 2017.
- What is the legal form of esports teams?
In Spain, it is common practice for professional teams to be Limited Liability Companies. Their business purpose is to participate in video game tournaments or represent video game players. Therefore, teams are incorporated via a legal form that allows them to have their own legal personality.
- What is the legal status of a professional player?
Professional esports players in Spain are employees of a company when they play under the banner of a team.
In this regard, players should be bound by a valid contract in accordance with the regulations and have the rights and obligations that are specified in the Workers’ Statute.
Players regularly provide their professional services to the club or team and, in return, they receive a remuneration related to their participation or the results obtained, in the manner established by the contract.
Less commonly, single players competing on their own may be self-employed. In any case, all professional players are protected by the general labour regulations.
- Is it true that players’ rights are not being respected?
Spanish regulations protect the rights of players.
Professional players who participate in video game tournaments should be governed by the common labour system if they are working for a team, or by the self-employed workers’ system if they carry out a professional activity on a non-employee basis. Any detriment to their labour rights may be subject to a labour proceeding to end the violation of their rights.
In addition, at AEVI we believe that self-regulatory measures will provide additional guarantees that will elevate the current protection to the highest standards of practice when it comes to the treatment of professional players.
- What is the current level of professionalisation?
Professionalisation of players, teams and tournaments is emerging and depends on the geographical scope and on the game. However, in general, it is developing quickly. According to an internal analysis by AEVI, the sector employs around 600 people in Spain, including 250 professional players.
In Spain, professional players have a work contract with their corresponding salary, rights and obligations. Also, each player individually trains for several hours (not including training with the other team players) and follows a personalised plan (diet, physical training, relaxation, etc.).
Regarding the teams, one of the visible effects is the proliferation of technical staff, which includes many different people: coaches, community managers, psychologists and physiotherapists.
Concerning the tournaments, organisers have also evolved by adding different staff members to their companies: personnel for IT, design, advertising and communication, as well as journalists and lawyers. Therefore, we anticipate the creation of a good number of highly skilled jobs in Spain in the coming years, as the esports industry grows.
- Is doping a concern in esports?
In Spain, there are no indications that there is a problem of substance use with the aim of increasing performance. However, the industry must be alert in case signs appear, in order to maintain the integrity of the tournaments and the health of participants. AEVI recommends following the industry global esports principles (https://www.isfe.eu/isfe-esports/) that encourage values of players’ integrity and safe and fair environment for both players and the wider esports community.
- Is gambling a concern in esports?
Betting and gambling activities are independent and separate from the video game and esports industry.
Gambling on eSports is neither facilitated nor condoned by the game publishers, developers or video game networks themselves. Nevertheless, due to the very nature of esports being a live spectator activity, betting opportunities have arisen, as consumers are able to wager on the outcome of esports matches through fully licensed operators.
Needless to say, they are obliged to abide by the licensing objectives, including protecting children and other vulnerable persons from being harmed or exploited by gambling.
Gambling and betting operators must behave responsibly, considering the immaturity of the esports sector, where compliance and protection measures are still developing.
As a responsible industry, integrity is of the utmost importance to AEVI. We are committed to ensuring that esports remain honest and transparent by working with publishers, developers, professional players, broadcasters, league owners and international organisations to comply with the law and prevent the occurrence of any match fixing or cheating.
- Can someone below the recommended age participate in video game tournaments?
An employment relation binds professional players with their organisations. Therefore, the minimum participation age in Spain is 16, with parental authorisation, or 18 without. Furthermore, amateur players should follow Spanish regulations regarding minors accessing online platforms.
AEVI is working at a European level with ISFE (Interactive Software Federation of Europe) to introduce best practices to develop the best esports ecosystem in Europe.
- Can women compete under equal conditions?
Esports competitions allow any person to compete independently of their gender identity. The industry is working to propose measures to help increase the presence of women at all levels of competition.
Newzoo (2020), Global Esports Market Report 2020 Light Version. Available at https://newzoo.com/insights/trend-reports/newzoo-global-esports-market-report-2020-light-version/
 See above.
 Palomar, Alberto y Terol, Ramón (2017), “Régimen jurídico de las competiciones de videojuegos. ”Difusión Jurídica,pp. 15-19.