Greenberg Traurig has launched a multi-office, cross-practice team to do work for clients in the competitive video gaming industry, or esports. The practice is led by Dallas litigation partners Steve Walkowiak and P. William Stark.
The new video game and esports group is composed of about 20 lawyers in practices including emerging technology, intellectual property, corporate and securities, stadium development, media rights and litigation, the firm said. Lawyers in the firm’s global gaming and sports law practices will also contribute.
Esports involves multiplayer video game competitions between professional teams that are viewed online or in arenas. One such venue, the new Esports Stadium Arlington, opened in November in the Dallas area. It is the largest dedicated esports facility in North America.
Walkowiak said the esports market is now “sufficiently mature” to support the new video game and esports group. Greenberg Traurig represents clients in all aspects of multiplayer competitive video gaming, including esports teams, esports leagues, players, game developers, app developers distributing content and content creators. One such client is Tankee, which offers a mobile platform for kids ages six through 12, Walkowiak said.
“The esports world has gone from a few kids playing in their college dorm room to being on the main stage,” Walkowiak said. “It is at a point esports and e-gaming culture isn’t a niche culture anymore.”
Stark said the global esports market has grown tremendously in recent years in part because millennials grew up playing video games and want to continue to do so in their free time, Stark said.
“All the research shows that more and more, millennials watch esports as much as sports,” he said, noting that esports allows them to interact with the best players.
Dallas has become a big area for esports, the lawyers said. In addition to being home to the new Esports Stadium in Arlington, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones in 2017 bought compLexity Gaming, which sponsors numerous teams for games including “Fortnite,” and moved its headquarters to Frisco, Texas, where it will operate out of The Star, home of the Dallas Cowboys World Headquarters. In addition, Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban owns Mavs Gaming, which has a team playing in the NBA 2K league.
Walkowiak expects the competition to intensify in the esports space as more firms in Big Law see the potential.
Other firms with esports practices include Pennsylvania-based McNees Wallace & Nurick, which launched its practice group in June.
In November, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher launched an international betting and gaming practice group in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized sports betting. Murphy v. National Collegiate Athletic Association overturned a federal law that prohibited states from authorizing state-sanctioned sports betting.
Walkowiak said there is betting on some of the competitive video games, but it’s discouraged on other games.
But esports is exciting because it’s such a young industry, Stark said.
“It is a little bit like the NFL was in the late ’50s and early ’60s—gaining in popularity,” he said. “But it hasn’t explored its full potential.”