One of the fastest growing competitive sports industries in the nation is the Esports industry, which is rapidly approaching the one-billion-dollar mark. By definition, Esports is any form of competition using video games. Most often, it takes the form of multiplayer video game competitions between professional gamers. In addition, these competitions are often based around real-time strategy (RTS) games, first-person shooter (FPS) games, and multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) games. Some of the most common include Fortnite, Rocket League, and FIFA.
Currently, there is a big threat facing the industry: match-fixing. Match-fixing happens when a match is played to a predetermined result, which violates the rules of gaming and, in most cases, the law. Recently, a survey was commissioned by Foley and Lardner LLP along with The Esports Observer. In that survey, a total of 124 different professional sports teams and leagues, primarily in Esports, and many technology and media companies were surveyed. Looking at the results, 78% of respondents indicated they felt match-fixing proves to be a serious or moderate risk to the growth of the Esports industry as a whole. In large part, the increased chance of match-fixing in Esports compared to other sports is due to the much lower guaranteed pay for these competitors. The result of a fixed match could easily outweigh the guaranteed paycheck. In addition, many of the competitors in the Esport industry are younger competitors and are thus more susceptible to bribery and match-fixing as a whole. The issue is summed up best by a representative of Foley and Lardner LLP, Mary K. Braza: “Looking ahead, match-fixing has the potential to negatively impact the popularity of Esports if fans get the impression that cheating is widespread or that results are illegitimate.”
The issue of match-fixing itself brings rise to a whole different problem: many competitors are being accused of losing intentionally. While numerous competitors are rumored to be intentionally losing, most go without being punished which, in essence, tarnishes the integrity of the game and industry. One such reputational risk can be seen through an alleged claim launched by a competitor in a League of Legends competition. Witnesses say one player threw the match and suffered no consequences. What ensued was a thread of back-and-forth commentary leading many competitors and fans of the game to be concerned.
On the other side, match-fixing may be a positive for some companies. Opportunities exist for individuals and companies who can effectively mitigate or stop the match-fixing problem by using monitoring tools and fraud detection. The demand for these services is ever-growing as match-fixing continues to happen and there is a continuous need to identify and report suspicious activity.
Currently, no definitive solution has been identified to the match-fixing problem. While many state active monitoring is the key, the argument for increased player pay also has validity. No matter the solution, passionate professionals and followers of Esports agree that they need to work towards a state where these issues are mitigated.