European Parliament passes resolution providing recommendations for enhancing the European video game and esports industries

On 10 November 2022, the European Parliament passed a Resolution recognising the potential and value of esports and the video games industry, whilst also highlighting the challenges it faces and providing some initial recommendations for how to overcome them. The Resolution passed by a significant majority, with 560 MEPs voting in favour, 34 voting against and 16 abstentions.

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Value and Potential

The Resolution highlights the size of the video games industry within the EU, but also that it is dominated by principally non-EU developers and publishers. Meanwhile, it states that esports is still at an embryonic stage of development, with considerable potential to evolve and transform other sectors at EU and national level.

The sector’s ability to offer educational benefits in school environments and the development of skills essential in a digital environment were also emphasised, as well as the considerable employment opportunities it has to offer.

Importantly, the European Parliament recognised that video games are an integral part of Europe’s cultural heritage and should be preserved and promoted.

Challenges Recognised

The Resolution comes at a time where the ever-increasing size of the video games and esports sectors is butting up against the prospect of increasing regulation of digital products and services more generally.

The European Parliament also highlights key challenges posed by esports and video games for European society in the digital sphere, including cheating, adverse impacts on environmental sustainability, disinformation and overworking of staff (particularly in the build up to the release of a new game). The potentially harmful effects of micro-transactions, in-game currencies and loot boxes, particularly to minors and other vulnerable people, are also referenced.

Key take-aways

The Resolution outlines a myriad of potential solutions to the challenges it recognises. Among the most significant are that it:

  • calls on the Commission to develop an EU video game strategy and a Charter to promote European values in e-sports competitions, building on the targets of the 2030 Digital Compass to improve access to talent, skills, financing and infrastructure;
  • underlines the need to develop a European strategy for video game IP, utilising both the creation of new and original IP and the promotion of existing European creations and IP;
  • calls on the Commission to address the ambiguity on the status of professional esports players. Addressing an issue that has vexed esports tournament organisers and teams for years, it suggests the establishment of a visa for esports personnel based on the Schengen cultural and sports visas, applicable to all personnel involved in running and participating in esports competitions; and
  • recognises that getting more women into video games and esports should be treated as a strategic priority, with only an estimated 20% of video game industry employees in Europe being women. The Resolution recognises that online features can currently be misused for online violence or harassment, especially towards female players, so the addressing of this will be a key step in encouraging inclusivity.

Next steps

The European Parliament Resolution is a non-binding legislative instrument but instead makes a call to action to the European Commission and/or the Member States.

Nonetheless, the Resolution may encourage the Commission to propose relevant initiatives in this field in the coming years. It is particularly notable that, when debating the issue in Plenary with the relevant MEPs, the EU Internal Market Commissioner, Thierry Breton, welcomed the Resolution stating that he will try to listen to these calls from the Parliament in the context of the discussion on the “Metaverse” currently ongoing within the Commission.

Commissioner Breton added that the Commission will look at the topic in a more holistic manner going forward, considering industrial, technological and trade aspects of the sector, and is ready to work hand in hand with the Culture Committee and the broader Parliament to act more comprehensively on the matter.

It will be interesting to see whether this highly promising Resolution translates into real legislative change within the EU in the near-midterm future.

Will is an associate in our Media, Entertainment and Sports Group, based in London. Will's sports practice is focused on commercial/contractual matters, though he also has experience in advising on league structuring, rule drafting/interpretation and other regulatory issues. On the commercial side, he routinely advises on sponsorship and media rights, but in addition he advises clients on a range of other areas of law, including gambling regulation, advertising and consumer law. In his time at Bird & Bird, Will has gained experience in working across a number of different sports, and in recent years he has developed a particular focus on esports, where he has advised industry stakeholders on setting up new esports leagues, sponsorship, player contracts and a variety of other issues.

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