From Atari 2600 to Esports

By Christian Nolan

Gaming

EASL Section Examines Evolution of Video Game Industry

For law firms thinking about introducing video game law to their practice, consider this – in 2019, the U.S. video game industry generated $35.4 billion in revenue.

“Whatever sense you had about video games… wipe that slate clean,” said Ben Golant, chief counsel for intellectual property policy at the Entertainment Software Association in Washington, D.C.

Golant represents the video game industry before U.S. Congress, courts, the executive branch, and government agencies involved in IP policy and enforcement.

Gone are the days of video games being mainly played by teenaged boys in their basement while eating Doritos. Commonly referred to as “gamers,” Golant said 75 percent of Americans have at least one gamer in their household.

The average age of a gamer is now 33 years old. The 18-35 demographic is still the largest segment at 40 percent. Women now make up 46 percent of gamers.

“Even if you play Candy Crush on your mobile device, you are a gamer,” said Golant, noting that Pokémon Go has now been downloaded a billion times. “Don’t think because you don’t play a console game that you’re not a gamer because that’s not the case anymore.”

Video games have also provided lawyers with plenty of other work, as the industry has branched out to movies, soundtracks and even fashion.

Golant’s comments were from a panel discussion “Video Games and ESports,” as part of the New York State Bar Association’s Entertainment, Arts and Sports Law Section events Jan. 28 at Annual Meeting.

The panel was moderated by Jeffrey R. Cadwell, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney. The other panelists were Gerald Wang, vice president of business affairs at Take-Two Interactive Software; Leo Wan, senior legal counsel at theScore; and Stuart Goldfarb, general counsel and chief operating officer at the Electronic Gaming Federation.

Esports
Wang explained the industry shift in the way people consume video game content.

“People are actually watching video games as spectators,” said Wang. “… That impacts the way we market games.”

Wang said 10 years ago video games were still marketed in traditional ways such as advertisements, television commercials, and partnerships with retailers. Now, he said “social media influences how we push out games.”

Wang said one of his employer’s big titles is NBA 2K. The NBA 2K League is an esports league joint venture between the National Basketball Association and Take-Two Interactive. The league brings together the most talented gamers in the world. Games are livestreamed on Twitch.

He said in late January, YouTube also announced a partnership with a competitor in the industry to stream esports.

“It gives you a sense of how important this space is for us developers,” said Wang.

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