- Esports’ growth necessitates agents to manage deals between players and organizations
- They help legitimize and regulate the industry and help pros sign lucrative contracts
- The future will see more professional agents and perhaps esports athletes’ unions
With the growth of esports as a whole, it is becoming more and more important for agencies to protect the interest of their players and set precedents.
Esports’ Fast Growth
With the world situation being that it is currently, many of us have been stuck inside, watching entertainment online. This has greatly helped the growth of the esports industry as a whole with $1 billion in 2021, according to the game market insights and analytics company Newzoo.
Large names in the professional gamer and streamer sphere like Ninja, Dr Disrespect, Michael “imaqtpie” Santana are being supported by small and large agencies, who have also grown much in the past one or two years.
With companies coming into the gaming industry, there arises the need for agents to mediate between them and gamers. With sometimes millions of dollars at stake, pro players need someone to help them navigate through contracts and advocate on behalf of their career aspirations.
Legitimizing the Industry
Like with other careers, the pro gaming one is also filled with people who do not always want the best for you. To some managers and CEOs, gamers are just a lucrative money farm, so ethics sometimes fly out of the window. Sometimes this could take the form of downright exploitation on behalf of organizations.
Chris Greeley, commissioner of the LCS said “The wild west of people sleeping on floors is long past us. Professional athletes are treated as professional athletes.”
“The better [agents] get at their jobs, the more educated players get, and the more experienced orgs get on this front, the better it is for everybody,” said Danan Flander, general manager of the Golden Guardians, which is the Golden State Warriors’ esports branch.
More people watching the industry means fewer possibilities for organizations to exploit players.
With agents on the rise, it is important to have some kind of controlling organ. Last year the ESIC released a statement, saying they are working on a certification process for the professionals who represent players. It aims to create a “global regulatory scheme” for regulating agents.
Striking a Good Deal
Protecting a pro player’s intellectual property, image, and likeness are key for Barry Lee, co-founder and director of esports at Evolved Talent Agency. This is to ensure the team the pro is playing for does not own their rights after the [layer has left the organization.
With the Covid situation it is also important to keep a close eye on termination language. This frees parties from liability in circumstances outside the team or player’s control. This protects players from losing their spot on a team or in an agency when they return.
In the early days contracts looked almost identical, but now “There’s different league rules mandating how contracts need to be structured. There’s slight differences and variations on what type of terms you ask for and how you can ask for them,” Lee said.
Unlike traditional sports, pro gamers often don’t have an agent representing them. Instead, they have family represent them or hire lawyers solely to review the language of contracts.
It is estimated that approximately 30 to 40 percent of pro League of Legends players are represented by professional agents. This number is lower for the Call of Duty League and the Overwatch League.
The relatively low numbers of represented players are part of the reason why Riot created the North American LCS Players Association in 2017. However, it is not an official union and is still funded by Riot.
This brings us to the next problem. According to Lee these leagues aren’t making enough money on their own that players feel like they’re missing out, negating the need for a collective bargaining agreement. He added that if players feel like their cut of the revenue is not correct, we will be seeing an esports union.
For now, at least, private agents seem to be the best way for players to ensure they are treated and paid well by teams and organizations.