“You Must Construct Additional Pylons”: Building a Better Framework for Esports Governance

By Laura L. Chao

Abstract

The popularity of “esports,” also known as “electronic sports” or competitive video gaming, has exploded in recent years and captured the attention of cord-cutting millennials—often to the detriment of sports such as basketball, football, baseball, and hockey. In the United States, the commercial dominance of such traditional sports stems from decades of regulatory support. Consequently, while esports regulation is likely to emulate many aspects of traditional sports governance, the esports industry is fraught with challenges that inhibit sophisticated ownership and capital investment. Domestic regulation is complicated by underlying intellectual property ownership and ancillary considerations such as fluctuations in a video game’s popularity.

Since analogous reform is nigh impossible, nascent governance organizations have been created to support the professionalization of esports as a new entertainment form. As esports consumption continues to grow, enterprising stakeholders are presented with the unique opportunity to create regulatory bodies that will shape the esports industry. This Note analyzes how the professional sports industry and foreign esports markets have addressed governance challenges that arise from differences between traditional sports and competitive video gaming. It concludes by exploring two potential pathways for domestic esports governance.