January 30, 2017
In the last 25 years the evolution of the home gaming console and the development of the internet have moved the concept of eSports out of stadiums (think of the very early Mario Bros tournaments once hosted by Nintendo), down into the remote space of the individual user’s own online network, up in to the connected viewer platforms controlled by providers such as Twitch and Hitbox, and now again (with a growing demand for ‘physical’ involvement by fans and sponsors) back into stadiums.
In the immediate future, venue support for the hosting of eSports events is a clear priority, but at this stage of development, with the notable exception of the Gfinity Arena at Fulham Broadway, the majority of eSports teams, platforms and leagues (in the UK at least) don’t have dedicated stadiums for fixtures and competitions. Instead, venues are more typically licensed on a bespoke basis, in the same manner that event promoters secure venues for analogous ‘single hire’ events such as a music concert.
The licensing of venues and stadiums requires careful negotiation between the concerned parties so that interests are appropriately protected. Key considerations include distribution of ticket proceeds, confidentiality provisions, appropriate IP protection and all necessary licensing for venue use (PRS licences for the performance of live music, PPL licences for the performance of recorded music and premises licences under Licensing Act 2003).
If eSports evolves into the acquisition of dedicated stadiums, a new layer of complexity is added. In the meantime, eSports teams and leagues are increasingly sourcing facilities to serve as hubs for the purposes of training, collaboration, socialising and publicity. As the popularity of eSports continues to increase the demand for larger and longer term interests in such spaces is likely to follow close behind. Leagues and teams will have to move towards large scale acquisitions of land with extreme caution and ensure they are carefully advised on all key risk areas.