Q: How can we have equal representation for teams, players, and casters if the publisher at the end of the day owns both the league and the game?
Well, I think that's a fundamental problem, right? The IP problem is thorny because in football, let's say--nobody owns the IP of football. If I want to go out tomorrow and try and create a competing league to the NFL, it might be dumb, but I could do it, theoretically, right? If I had enough money, I could do it.
But with esports, you're always bound to the developer's wishes because they own every aspect of the IP. They even own YouTube videos that you make showing their content of the games, so if they don't like you, they can eliminate you, basically, from existence, or if they don't want to do things a certain way, then you don't have a choice.
So I think it is hugely problematic and, obviously, what I think in the long-term I would like to see the most is a developer independent league, as in an independent body that did multiple developers' titles but was so big that when a new esport was coming up or a developer wanted to have a new esport, they would have to work in partnership with this independent body.
This independent body would have its own commissioner, have its own rules set, govern the players, and then you have an independent players union, and independent caster's union as a part of this larger whole. Certainly, that independent body could be negative because it could play kingmaker with various developers, but I think it's actually in everybody's best interest, including the developer. And for these developers to start to actually work together on these various projects and to hope that something like this eventually comes into being, because then they can divest themselves of all production costs, right? Because it's not like--okay, the NFL does produce some games--but for the most part, they've sold rights to Fox and other other television networks, and those television networks purchased the rights from the NFL to broadcast it. They produce it. They sell all the ads. They make money that way. They sell subscriptions to cable, whatever. And I think that model where you have some sort of independent production, which is, of course, different because the NFL is the one writing and enforcing the rules, whereas in my sort of model, it would be the production and the governing body would sort of be the same thing across multiple esports.
And this is spitballing. Obviously, this is extremely complicated without going too much into specifics. But I think that if you had one esports body that was dealing with multiple games, it would also stabilize, I think, a lot of the franchises, because I'm hugely in favor of geolocation, and I think if you had one body where the Chicago team would always get into the next esport... so if you had a Chicago team that was in multiple esports already and they had to be in every esport that the governing body accepted... and maybe they built a facility, like a small 1000 person arena in Chicago, and you could start using that. You could set different seasons, so it would be like League seasons in the summer, Overwatch seasons in the winter. So you continue to use that facility year-round and then the owners can start to make revenue year-round after building these facilities by selling tickets, selling merchandise and then when a new esport is accepted--once it gets to a certain level of popularity--then you start throwing it into the mix. Every franchise must start dealing with that esport. And again, it does create problems where you have this body who can just sort of reject, maybe, a popular title outright. But it wouldn't be probably in their best interest to do that. So as soon as you have something big enough, you can start to organize more esports onto that. And I think that that would be ideal because then there would have to be more of a partnership between a developer and an outside regulatory body and a production body. And I think that that would be a healthier relationship than every single developer owning everything about the league, everything about the competitive scene, because that just... it hasn't turned out great. It hasn't turned out great.
Is there an independent entity that has the potential to build that?
No. I think the closest thing is that... I'm hoping. So here's what I hope. I hope that in the future, as we move into franchising in specific games, whether it's Overwatch League or the NA LCS or Vainglory has recently gone through some franchising as well... as more and more leagues start to solidify like that, I would hope that owners who exist in all these titles--or the majority of the franchise titles--would start to seriously have conversations about consolidating their power across all of these titles and then negotiating with the developers to splinter off and form a league. But who knows, that may never happen.
Obviously, the problem is that the developers are very powerful. And to create something big enough and wealthy enough to do that, I think, would be really, really hard. But as we move more towards these billionaire owners or sports teams that are worth one, two, many billions of dollars--that as long as esports keeps growing over the long haul, maybe they'll see the need for that kind of investment and start to think about what that means. Because it certainly would be better for the owners to be able to select the games and to be able to do what professional sports teams owners do very well, which is engage with their local fan bases, sell tickets, sell merchandise, deal with their facilities during various times of the year. They are experts at this already. And so allowing them to maximize the profits from their business by running these multiple esports and having more control over rules and calendars, I think, would be quite beneficial.