WESA: Esports governing body
The world of esports was set ablaze last week when this picture was posted by a printing center employee:
In the image there is clear presentation of some of the largest, most successful esports organizations in the western world including Fnatic, Ninjas in Pajamas, G2 Esports, Mousesports, Virtus.pro FaZe, Natus Vincere, and Team EnVyUs, along with the logo for ESL. Speculation immediately became the default setting for many bloggers and journalists because the obvious meaty story (which could neither be confirmed or denied by any of the involved parties at the time) was that ESL was going to form its own exclusive league (an idea which has failed horribly in the past) and basically enter the esports arena once again with a clear “us vs. the world” mentality.
I held off on writing my thought once the image became public because, although I do love healthy speculation and the mystery behind it all, ESL explained through social media that there would be an announcement Friday (today). Turns out the announcement was less of what many speculators had guessed, and more of what any rational deduction would have led those same writers to. ESL has formed what they call the “World Esports Association” (WESA) and have partnered with all the above mentioned organizations as pilot members.
What WESA is attempting to become is an overseeing governing body for competitive gaming (similar to the NBA or NFL for traditional sports). The fact that they have already been referred to as the FIFA of esports is a little worrisome, considering all the corruption and bribes FIFA is known for, but I do feel that this brings up a good issue which needs discussion but will not easily be solved: Can a commission truly be effective in esports?
I think the main issue WESA is going to face is that, like the NFL, they have to play their own game of politics to stay afloat and carry out the agenda set and voted on by their members. However, unlike the NFL, WESA in the future is looking to oversee and sanction events not only for 1 game, but many major competitive games (at least that is the ideal hope). As for right now, based on the teams in the association and the ESL’s current involvement in the esports climate, CS:GO seems to be the starting point.
I cannot, and will not pose every single question I have and dive deeply into the possibilities as there is not enough time in the day and, ultimately, the odds of figuring out such a complex issue are slim, but here are several questions to consider when thinking about the WESA:
- How does the organization intend to enforce their rulings or flex their perceived power when they neither own the games which are being played, or the tournaments in which they are being played?
- What benefit does this provide to players world-wide/is it feasible to extend this organization outside of EU boarders when there are several powerful organizations which have more to gain by refusing WESA?
- How does WESA intend on providing any protection to individual players when a team can simply refuse to cooperate with WESA demands and parameters?
- If there is ever a disagreement between a game’s developer (Valve, Riot, etc), how does WESA intend to assert their leverage?
Although I am obviously skeptical regarding the level of effectiveness WESA will have, I do think that having a 3rd party organization has loads of benefits including: Impartial judgement and rulings (which would have been nice in the recent TDK, Renegades, TIP decision), player resources including post-retirement opportunites and direction, democratic elections of advocates for professional players, and possible negotiation assistance for player contracts.
There are a lot of possibilities and speculation about what may or may not come of the World Esports Association and I am going to reserve my judgement (and in-depth reactions) until the situation plays out further. As we know from the past with ESL, the announcement of change is not always met with open arms (exclusivity league, tests for doping), and WESA might see drastic changes before it actually assumes its intended role, but I do intend to continue covering the evolution of WESA in the future.
Do the positives outweigh the negatives in this case? I think only time will tell, but I do think that this is a very ambitious undertaking by ESL, and I hope that it does not end up become another one of the ill-fated moves they have recently nearly become synonymous with in the esports scene.