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esports monthly round-up: December 2018

20 December 2018

In our last round-up of 2018, we take a look at esports inclusion in the Southeast Asian Games, legal proceedings launched by Epic Games against Youtubers, the legal status of esports players, the launch of the new ePremier League and Nike’s first-ever esports brand ambassador.

In the New Year one of our associates, Liam Haeburn-Little, will be starting an esports blog so keep an eye out for this in 2019.

Wishing you all the best for the festive season!

Esports will be a medal event at the Southeast Asian Games

Having featured in the Asian Games earlier this year, it has been announced that esports will be included as a medal event at the Southeast Asian Games in 2019.

In our last round-up, we discussed recent comments from Thomas Bach, President of the IOC, that a number of esports titles promote violence and discrimination, which is contrary to the Olympic values. In light of these comments, the industry will see it as positive news that the prospect of esports inclusion in major sports events has not disappeared entirely. If the Southeast Asian Games are a success, it may prompt the IOC to reconsider whether esports can be incorporated into other future Games.

There will be a total of six gold medals at the Games and the titles featured will include NBA 2K, Dota 2, Hearthstone and Tekken 7.

You can read more about this here.

Epic Games takes legal action against Youtubers

Epic Games, publishers of battle-royale phenomenon Fortnite, recently made headlines by taking legal action against two Youtubers in the US. It is reported that these Youtube accounts were used to promote cheat software, such as aimbots, for use in Fortnite.

As Fortnite moves towards becoming one of the most popular esports in the world, it is vitally important that its competitive integrity is preserved and that action is taken to clamp down on those who break the rules.

Integrity issues remain even at the top ranks of esports, for example CS:GO player Nikhil “Forsaken” Kumawat was caught using a cheat programme and handed a five-year ban by the Esports Integrity Coalition earlier this month. In order to preserve the integrity of matches and competitions, it is important that publishers continue to take action against those who carry out banned activities when playing esports titles.

One of our esports specialists, Kostya Lobov, recently shared his views on the subject.

You can read his comments in full here.

Nike announces first esports ambassador

As part of LeBron James’ ‘Dribble &’ campaign, Nike has announced an endorsement deal with Chinese League of Legends Player, Jian “Uzi” Zihao, which marks the brand’s first ever deal with an esports player.

Zihao is a prolific League of Legends player, having won the gold medal with the Chinese national team at the Asian games earlier this year and being tipped for the League of Legends Championship. He was also the subject of a documentary on Chinese state television and has a significant social following in his home country.

While it is likely that one of the reasons for Zihao’s inclusion in the campaign is his social influence in China, this move by Nike also demonstrates the marketability and reach of esports players for mainstream, non-endemic brands. According to data website, Hookit, last month Tyler “Ninja” Blevins had the fifth most social interactions of any sports star in the world, ahead of the likes of LeBron James himself and Kylian Mbappe. It will be interesting to see if more brands will follow Nike’s example and partner with esports players in the future.

You can read more here.

EA partners with Premier League to launch ePremier League

Electronic Arts and the Premier League have partnered to launch the ePremier League (ePL).

The competition will form part of the FIFA Global Series and will feature competitors representing each current Premier League club. It will officially get underway at the start of 2019 and will be broadcast by Sky Sports in March.

Many Premier League clubs have forayed into esports in the past, most notably West Ham and Manchester City, but it is encouraging to see adoption at an official league level. The involvement of well-established rights-holders from the world of sport, like the Premier League, may help esports more generally to move in the direction of standardised regulation, which is currently stalling its inclusion in the Olympic Games.

You can read more here.

Employment status of players

The employment status and resulting rights of esports players is an area that has been overlooked by the industry for many years.

However, in light of recent decisions surrounding ‘worker’ status and the gig-economy, it will be interesting to see how esports organisations approach the issue in 2019 and beyond.

Our Employment group recently discussed the classification of workers, which you can read here.

Further information

If you would like to know more about how we can assist esports organisations, investors, event organisers, sponsors, professional gamers and other stakeholders in the esports industry, you can contact Michael Lister or Liam Haeburn-Little.

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