Player contract illustrates unfair and unethical conditions

17 December 2019


A contract obtained by Esports Insider illustrates poor and unethical working conditions that esports players may be subjected to.

The contract in question is between a North American organisation and a mobile esports player that requested to remain anonymous.

Mobile esports contract piece
Photo credit: OPPO

The contract states that should the player in question be transitioned to a substitute player, or if they’re not required to play in a LAN tournament for any given month, then they’re required to stream for 120 hours per month while receiving $0 salary for their efforts.

This, of course, works out as 30 hours each week – should the given month consist of four weeks. Whilst there isn’t a definitive number of hours that a full-time working week consists of, between 35 and 40 is widely considered the standard for a full-time employee in the United States.

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Perhaps more alarmingly, an exclusivity clause in the contract prevents the player in question from working elsewhere – despite being an independent contractor, not an employee – and they only receive income that’s earned from solo live streams. If streaming in collaboration with the organisation or a sponsor, then the organisation retains 100 percent of the revenue generated by the player. There’s nothing stopping the organisation from forcing a sponsored stream upon the player, creating a potentially turbulent and unpredictable schedule  in which they’re unable to earn any sort of income.

The organisation also retains 100 percent of revenue received from the sale of in-game content that relates to either the organisation or the player. So, for example, if there are in-game team-branded skins – in which the developer has allocated a revenue split – then the player will receive nothing from the initiative.

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The organisation can trade, transfer, or loan the player to another organisation without their consent, and notably, such trades, transfers, or loans are not limited by region. Consequently, a young North America-based player could be traded to a European organisation without their agreement, which carries with it its own potential set of difficulties for the player.

Max Nicolaides, Future Trainee Solicitor at Mishcon de Reya spoke to Esports Insider about the need for fair contracts and the current state of play in the industry: “A good player contract is essential for both organisations and players. Thankfully, unfair contracts such as this are becoming the exception, rather than the norm, at the higher levels of esports, but the problem still persists around less regulated esports titles and where smaller players & organisations are involved. 

“We are starting to see the top tier of esports talent use lawyers and agents to negotiate fair contracts with organisations. Every player should read any contract carefully before signing and make sure they understand what it is they are signing up for. Ideally, they should seek advice from a lawyer to ensure that the contract reflects what they have agreed with the organisation.”

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All in all, it’s impossible to know the details of each and every player contract, but it’s highly likely that other players are locked into similarly unfair and borderline-manipulative conditions across a number of titles that aren’t among the ‘top tier,’ such as League of Legends, Dota 2, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.

The purpose of this article isn’t to call out a single organisation. Instead, Esports Insider wants to encourage players and potential employees to read and understand each and every aspect of a contract before signing on the dotted line. Lawyers are always available and happy to help.

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