The E-Sports Phenomenon

A Novelty in the Gaming Industry and in Law

In recent years, e-sports have experienced explosive growth, emerging as a driving force in the e-gaming industry. According to the most recent statistics, the number of spectators and participants in e-sports continues to grow significantly, signalling a radical change in entertainment and consumption habits. In this article, we will explore the e-sports phenomenon, analysing current trends and projecting future economic developments, with a special focus on the Italian legislation regulating this rapidly evolving sector.

Diffusion of E-Sports and Future Economic Developments

According to the latest statistics, e-sports are experiencing unprecedented growth in terms of spectators and participants. In 2023, the global number of e-sports spectators was estimated at over 474 million, with further growth expected in the coming years. This phenomenon does not only affect countries traditionally associated with e-sports, but is spreading all over the world, including Italy, where more and more people are becoming passionate about this form of competitive entertainment.

E-sports are not only a form of entertainment, but also a growing economic market. The e-sports sector is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years due to the sponsorship of new players materially involved in the sporting moment, currently untapped ticket sales for events, future TV rights, and revenues from digital media that for the first time are directly involved in service delivery. In addition, the growing popularity of e-sports is prompting more and more companies to invest in this sector, creating economic opportunities for professional players, event organisers and companies related to the gaming industry.

Overview of Italian E-Sports Legislation

There is currently no specific law regulating e-sports in Italy. The biggest problem is obviously the lack of regulatory qualification of e-sports as a competitive ‘sport’ to allow all operators in the sector to benefit from an administrative and tax regulation of their activities. In fact, this absence has the effect of thwarting the attempts of the administrative bodies involved in the management of these activities, such as CONI. 

However, there are some existing laws and regulations that have implications for this fast-growing sector.

As far as competitions are concerned, e-sports are currently regulated mainly by Article 3 of Presidential Decree 430/2001 which, in a decidedly extensive manner, regulates all ‘prize operations’, stating that ‘Prize operations[…] advertising events that provide for: a) offers of prizes to all those who purchase or sell a certain quantity of products or services and offer documentation thereof by collecting and delivering a certain number of documentary proofs of purchase, also on magnetic media; b) offers of a gift to all those who purchase or sell a certain product or service.” In fact encompassing within a complex administrative process any type of delivery of prizes in any non-commercial form or gift.

There is also specific legislation with provisions regulating the video game industry in general. For example, the law establishes rules for the marketing and distribution of video games, as well as for the protection of minors from inappropriate content. It is also necessary to mention that e-sports involve the use of copyrighted content, such as video games and streaming of games, which are protected by the Italian law on copyright and intellectual property, which protects the rights of authors and creators of content by laying down rules for their legal use 

In addition, the world of e-sports involves many professionals such as players, coaches and event organisers, all of whom are subject to Italian laws on employment relations and contractual matters. Finally, as e-sports often involve the collection and processing of players’ and spectators’ personal data, it is important that e-sports organisations and platforms comply with Italian privacy and data protection laws, such as the GDPR.

Given the ever-evolving nature of e-sports and the related industry, specific laws and regulations are certainly needed to address the unique issues affecting this sector, and Aiternalex is also active in this area to push for regulatory intervention.