Drafting and Negotiating eSports Player Contracts
It may come as a surprise to some, but eSports is big business. eSportEarnings.com has recorded over USD$360 million in earnings over about 23,000 tournaments. The biggest stars in League of Legends have earnings over $800,000. However, eSports is not reserved for Multi-player Online Battle Arena games anymore. In 2018, the NBA will be releasing the NBA 2K eLeague. Existing basketball franchises have already committed to purchase and run eSports teams.
Much like traditional sports, eSports teams need to scout, recruit and retain the most talented players or athletes. As well, like traditional sports, teams, and players (or their agents) must negotiate well-drafted player contracts.
The following is a non-exhaustive list of provisions that should be negotiated in a player contract:
The contract should set out that the player must attend and participate in all scheduled practices, meetings, games, tournaments, team promotional and commercial activities.
How will the player be compensated? Is there a salary plus performance bonuses for placing in tournaments or the success of the team in the eSports league?
Will the team cover all travel and tournament-related expenses?
Player Conduct and Responsibilities
The contract should clearly state minimum conduct rules, which may reference (a) a player’s behavior, (b) what a player can wear during promotional events, tournaments, live streams, etc., (c) what gaming gear the player can use, (d) whether the player is required to participate in media appearances, social media, endorsements, etc., (e) how the player must conduct himself/herself at all times while employed by the team.
Like professional sports, eSports teams should have the right to assign the player contract (trade the player) to other teams within the same eSports league.
Will the team provide the player with a guaranteed contract? If so, then a clear term must be set out and a description of the payout on early termination should be described.
It is important to note that some eSports leagues have their own set of rules that each team (and their players) must abide by. These rules should be taken into consideration when drafting/negotiating player contracts.