Esports' newest governing body wants to be the FIFA of video games
There's no denying that the esports landscape is muddied at best -- and chaotic at worst.
To this day, no overarching governing body for competitive gaming exists, although plenty of proposals exist. There is no NCAA or FIFA in video games; there isn't even a XFL to claim any kind of control.
One organization took what it hopes are steps to change that on Thursday, as the World Esports Association formally announced its existence. Word had leaked earlier this week that the WESA was on the horizon, consisting of the already existing Electronic Sports League and some of the most well-known esports teams on the planet.
WESA will offer the chance to bring all esports stakeholders - players, teams, organizers and broadcasters - to the discussion table in order to bring much needed structure, predictable schedules and transparency to the scene. Eight of the world’s biggest multi-gaming brands have contributed to the founding of WESA, with the Association aiming to add more members and negotiations continue with various organizations.
[...]One of the milestones of WESA is the creation of an operative Player Council, elected by the players, which will represent, strengthen and advocate on behalf of pro gamers on a number of important topics, such as league policies, rulesets, player transfers and more. The aim is to empower players when it comes to influencing decision-making in tournaments operated under WESA regulations. As such, the ESL Pro League for CS:GO will become the first professional esports competition to adopt said WESA regulations.
According to ESPN.com, commissioner Pietro Fringuelli envisions the WESA becoming the FIFA of esports, bringing the divergent interests of gamers together under one roof to address conflicts pertaining to scheduling, player movement, and other issues that might require a neutral arbiter.
That's all well and good, but there's one glaring problem: WESA's reach is extremely lacking right out of the gate.
Similar governing bodies already exist in other parts of the world, with the Korean e-Sports Association standing as perhaps the most successful. KeSPA holds sway over esports leagues that include a diverse list of games: League of Legends, Dota 2, Starcraft II, and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. WESA, on the other hand, claims dominion only over CS:GO. The first-person shooter is obviously a popular esport with a robust gambling scene, but it can't really compete with the popularity of a game such as LoL. Furthermore, WESA is currently limited to teams based in Europe; no North American or Asian teams were reportedly considered for inclusion.
Whether any global governing body can ever corral the esports scene will remain an open question, even as WESA undoubtedly looks to expand its umbrella. It's an ambitious goal, and one that's likely worthwhile. WESA should be commended for trying to give voice to the players in an organized fashion, rather than having them limited to yelling on social media and expressing their reservations with the current system behind the scenes.
The real power, however, lies with the video game publishers, and it's hard to see that changing any time soon. Major League Gaming, a gaming organization owned by Activision Blizzard, creator of Heroes of the Storm and Hearthstone, was reportedly not even approached to be part of the organization. Even if they had been, there's little reason for a company like Blizzard to surrender control over its own broadcasts and properties.
The 800-pound gorilla in the room is Riot Games, the creator of League of Legends. LoL is such a behemoth within the gaming world that it's become its own functioning ecosystem. The League Championship Series has proven to be a great success on its own, and the various tournaments around the world have already established their own prestige and traditions.
For those who want to consolidate esports in an attempt to foster stability in the community, WESA should be a step in the right direction. But it's extraordinarily unlikely that the current iteration can become as powerful an organization as FIFA.