Esports games – well, all video games – belong to the companies who created and published them. Users who ‘buy’ the game only ever own a licensed copy. This license can be revoked for many reasons. Some fair, like in cases of cheating, some entirely arbitrary. The point is, players are at the whim of the publishers.
This isn’t exactly ideal for games-based events like esports tournaments – neither is the fact that esports leagues themselves are equally vulnerable – no matter how many dedicated fans and players there are, if an organisation necessary for a league withdraws support, there is nothing the affected players can do.
Or at least so far it is. A bill in South Korea now aims to change that. Championed by South Korean Congressman Dong-su Yoo, a recently proposed bill is supposed to stop and prevent unexpected shutdowns of esports leagues. Of course, not by forcing them to stay open, that would be impossible, but rather by forcing companies to go through a clear process in order to close.
This process includes announcements for major changes, including for things like changing hosts for a league. “If a game company decides to no longer support the competitive league of a game title, they’re capable of shutting it down, even during the middle of it all,” the Congressman explained. “There are instances where the rights of the related businesses, esports pro players, and the viewers’ rights are being violated through unilateral changes to the ruleset and even unannounced shutdown of the league.”
For most leagues, this bill would mean little to no changes at all, while it would add protection for affected fans, players, casters and everyone else involved. This isn’t an entirely theoretical concern, by the way – esports giant Activision-Blizzard pulled the plug on the Heroes of the Storm esports league extremely suddenly in late 2018.
Practically overnight, casters and streamers found themselves out of an income source, while players and fans were left scratching their heads about the sudden shutdown. “While we cannot force anyone to donate their game as public goods, we need to prevent all related personnel involved in the game titles’ esport from facing damages due to the developers’ arbitrary decisions,” Congressman Yoo explained.
Forwards, South Korea!
The bill has not yet passed or been written into law – it has merely been submitted for consideration. In other words, it will take some more time before any changes in the situation will manifest, however it is a step in the direction of more protection and rights for esports fans and players.
This isn’t the first time that South Korea aims to be forward-thinking as far as esports and player protections go – not only were they one of the first places to formally declare video game addiction a legitimate disease, but they also founded the International Esports Federation. This global organisation is still based in Korea and is working in order to help esports find legitimisation as a legitimate sport all over.