Justin Jacobson on future of esports business & mgmt.

Oddball 2021-08-10 02:06:46
  Justin Jacobson, Esports & Video Game Attorney and Lead Manager for Ford Models esports division sat down with Esports Heaven for an interview talking about esports business and management.  I’m always fascinated at how much esports law has changed over time. How different is the industry now from when you first became an esports attorney? What are some of the changes? It has begun to really grow and become much more mainstream, well-known, and professionalized. This includes the professional gaming and esports talent earning more and learning more about personal brand building and monetizing themselves as well as on the professional side with the growth of individuals who service and work with talent and businesses in the esports space. This includes attorneys, CPAs, financial advisors, PR firms, and marketing agencies solely focused on the area. Overall, I feel as though many of the team contracts, especially the professional player and content creator ones with most of the Tier 1 and major esports organizations and teams, especially those participating in major franchise leagues, have begun to become a bit more standardized but also balanced and less one-sided. There have even been some that are much more favorable to the talent than ever before. At the end of the day, it is positive to see an overall shift in policy and more accommodation to reasonable suggestions and compromises. This lets both parties, the player and the teams, feel that it is a win-win and that they all want to succeed and grow together. Something that I feel is very important when negotiating is having both sides feeling good and excited to work together which is usually based on having a contract that provides and rewards the player for growth and helps protects them on their future endeavors. As someone that’s been involved in entertainment law—what makes esports especially unique? Coming from and working in the more traditional entertainment, music, sports and fashion spaces, something that I noticed in esports was the constant, rapid pace, and evolution of it. While most entertainment and pop culture spaces move quickly, esports is a 24/7 global force that trends in new directions weekly, if not daily. This includes new games coming, dominating, and leaving without coming back as well as new titles coming in to replace existing ones. This is what makes the space exciting and also so unique, as one day a fully functioning talent, team and league ecosystem exists funding hundreds of careers, such as with H1Z1; and then, next day, some new games come out in a similar game genre that take the world by storm. Then, you end up folding up shop and the scene is extinguished nearly overnight along with most of those individual’s careers. You are someone with many irons in different fires. How do you balance all the different responsibilities you have? It is definitely a balancing act to work as an attorney, a talent manager while also authoring and educating the youth of the world on esports and professional video gaming. I work on time management and prioritizing what must be done first and now and then working on each thing as efficiently as can be. You’re currently an Adjunct Professor of Esports at University of North Carolina Wilmington? How has that experience been for you? It was an amazing experience as this past Spring, I started teaching an esports business courses at University of North Carolina Wilmington. The course is based on my textbook, “The Essential Guide to the Business & Law of Esports & Professional Video Gaming.” The classes I currently teach are esports business and esports law classes. They each focus on and are based on the information in my textbook. The course aims to give the students an understanding of the business side of esports, including an overview of some of the most important legal matters and protections involved in the space.

In the class, I explore the four major parties of the esports business ecosystem, including who they are and how they earn revenues; and then, I continue to expand on the class by looking at the growth of esports, its current various competition scenes including console, PC, and mobile games as well as examine the growth of college, high school and recreational esports as well as related professions in esports. What area of esports would you like to expand to that you’re currently not involved in? I’d say that I haven’t worked in as much as I would like to in League of Legends and Dota 2. Those are games that I hope to continue to build up and engage in more work in coming years. To date, I have worked in most every other major console, PC and mobile title so it is existing to see what new titles emerge in coming years and what teams sign players to compete in those games. How developed do you think esports education is? What do you think the main aspects that need to be worked on are? I think that most of the current classes and curriculums are in their initial stages of development. Most of the existing ones are a great step in the right direction as esports education is constantly developing and fine tuning to new and unexplored area of academia so this takes time and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Ultimately, the more successful educational programs will feature industry expert who work in the space on a daily basis and who can bring practical and useful knowledge combined with educating the students on the information they should be familiar with. Esports, as with most entertainment spaces, require a specific knowledge and understanding that is usually only learned through experience, practice and trial and error and by working in the actual space. You also recently published The Essential Guide to the Business & Law of Esports & Professional Video Gaming. How has the reception been so far, and what type of impact are you hoping the book will make? Yes, I am very excited about releasing my first book. The book explores various legal and business matters related to esports and professional gaming world. This includes looking at copyrights, trademarks, business formations, tax matters, social media disclosures, contract law and licensing and immigration and employment law considerations in esports and professional gaming. I am pleased with the response I’ve received so far from industry colleagues, professors and students who have read it. I am hoping that is starts to act as a bridge and a working body of knowledge to grow and expand on for students, educators, professionals and aspiring esports business owners. The text aims to assist current and aspiring professional gamers, streamers, and content creators, esports team owners, event operators and game publishers to understand and identify some crucial business and legal matters that should be addressed and might be beneficial to their venture’s success.

I hope that it helps illuminate some new areas of thought and bring the entire knowledge base forward as I have included some sample major player, coach and caster agreement contractual language that is unavailable anywhere else. Knowledge is power and I hope this inspires and educates the next generation of esports entrepreneurs to approach it the right and legal way. You once stated that regarding your role in the esports industry, “I kind of saw a nice way for me to come in and kind of bring something different to the table.” What exactly do you think it is that you do different? Coming from a traditional music, sports, and entertainment world, I have different experiences, connections, and network as well as a different approach to negotiating in esports and gaming as many of the existing and top professionals have grown and mostly only worked in the area. In contrast, I am able to take some of the more traditional techniques, knowledge and promotional ideas I’ve acquired working with these more traditional entertainment segments and multi-national companies and implement them in the esports space. This knowledge positions me to effectively consult and understand how a professional athlete, musician or other notable influencers and celebrities can effectively cross-over and expand into the gaming world the right way as well as providing me with the how to best advise gaming talent and companies to ensure that they have the proper legal and business protections necessary to succeed and achieve their goals.

Where do you hope to see Ford Models Esports and Gaming in five years? The future is bright as I hope that we continue to work with top talent and that we keep finding the right avenues for partnerships and further development of everyone’s story and personal brand. The future is unwritten, but I hope to continue to grow in the industry and the talent division along with it.

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