eSports is a fast-growing new sport. In many ways, esports doesn’t follow the traditional sports model of physical athletics but in order ways it does and the lines are becoming more and more blurred as increasingly, esports follows the model of traditional sports in building and training teams, playing competitively and creating its own culture and communities.
eSports professionals note that they can’t be regarded as simple Vegas casino online real money gamers. They train intensively, live and breathe in the competitive arena and amass legions of adoring fans who follow their every move avidly.
Only recently most esports players lived primarily off of prize money but today most are affiliated with big-name teams where they command higher wages and more respect. eSports players, like soccer, basketball, football and other team members, have learned that they can negotiate better terms for themselves by moving from team to team.
Partners, sponsors and team owners are now learning that it’s in their best interests to create contracts with their valued players and trade and transfer players as needed.
Although the esports industry still resembles the Wild West in terms of cohesive regulations and controls, there is a huge market for players and talent. This is reflected in the esports market for players and talent.
Some leagues are regulated by the publisher of the game that they play while others lack the basic checks and balances that are expected in traditional sports leagues.
Riot Games, publisher of Leagues of Legends, is often held up as an example of a publisher that has established a set of global rules according to which everyone must abide.
Transfer windows are clearly noted, minimum contract standards are upheld and tampering and poaching are not tolerated.
Negotiations can take place in between competitive seasons and all trades, transfers and drafts must be confirmed by Riot for eligibility.
After approval a Global Contract Database is published where everyone can view all changes. There’s a similar cycle in the Overwatch League which is regulated by Overwatch’s publisher, Blizzard Entertainment.
In both leagues the teams run their own background checks on new players to look for past criminal behavior and possible past instances of cheating, sharing or boosting. In contrast, gamers playing for teams whose game publisher doesn’t take an active role in monitoring player movements often find themselves in a state of flux without the direction that they need.
Bringing New Gamers on Board
Reaching out to players during the season isn’t necessarily considered “poaching” and teams do so if the player’s contract is coming up for renewal. Initial talks tend to be general manager-to-general manager or coach-to-coach but there are no explicit offers made until a season’s end, though teams can and do discuss potential changes.
It’s expected that the general manager will be thinking about roster changes throughout the season but initiating changes during a season is seen to be crossing a line that risks the performances of both coaches and players.
Once a general manager gives another team the OK to speak to a team member about a possible move, the new team will feel that it can do so. It’s been rumored that major teams such as Dota 2, CounterStrike: Global Offensive and League of Legends are struggling with the big-name players whose salary expectations are high. Other teams are generally unwilling to take such players and the teams are wary of dropping names that inspire significant fandom.
There’s plenty of data about basketball, football and soccer players so you know exactly which player achieves which results.
In eSports, despite the technical nature of the gaming, objective data is lacking so it’s hard to assess objectively which players are genuinely good players. In addition, some players whose performance has dropped still bring in endorsement and monetization deals which means that keeping the player on the team is a good move.
Determining a player’s market value involves assessing a combination of current and future salaries, length of the current contract and similar transactions. For instance, League of Legends team representatives keep up with other team bids within the relevant leagues and within neighboring leagues.
In some instances, there isn’t any type of precedent on which to base a player or team’s value. This is true with games with an open market like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO). Many observers say that there’s a need for more robust data, especially in cases where transfer fees are arbitrary.
It can be difficult to keep up with the regulations of the various leagues which can differ dramatically from one to the other. Dota 2 imposes penalties on teams that allow players to move during the season but has not set any kind of transfer window. CS:GO’s structure is different than other leagues – its international, top-down focus means that if a foreign player wants to play for a top-tier team in the US, their options are limited.
One esports phenomena that you wouldn’t see in a traditional sports trade is the occurrence of having a new team owner buy an entire team, en masse but that has happened in League of Legends with new owners who wanted to start a team from scratch.
In CS:GO there have been instances of entire teams being traded which can happen when there’s no transfer window. Counter-Strike players have more leverage to move around though the fee structure doesn’t give CS:GO players the bargaining power that, for instance, LoL gamers have, CS:GO is rumored to be favoring a heavier focus on formal structures for the future including more player agents.
Academy Leagues and Development Systems
Many players find their way onto teams via academy leagues and development systems. These bases are more active in Europe and Asia but the systems are given a lot of credit for bringing players from those areas into the pros while Korean and North American counterparts continue to struggle.
A near absence of player unions, combined with a lack of standard protocols between agents and teams means that the atmosphere of Wild West in esports player movement may be something that the industry must contend with for years to come.