McNees Wallace & Nurick LLC recently announced the launch of a new esports practice group.
Also known as competitive video gaming, esports involves multiplayer video games played for spectators, typically by professional gamers.
The new group is headed by Langdon Ramsburg, who practices labor and employment law.
His focus will remain on labor and employment, but he said he may become more focused on esports and work as a general counsel role for those trying to get into the industry.
Esports law is an amalgamation of multiple disciplines – labor and employment, contracts, endorsements, sponsorships, intellectual property and all the things that come with those arrangements.
Because Mcnees already has experts in the wide range of legal areas pertaining to esports, it makes the firm a good fit to represent companies looking to venture into the field, Ramsburg said.
Young professionals make up a good portion of the attorneys in the new practice, something Ramsburg believes is because younger attorneys played video games as children, recognize how popular the esports industry is and see its growth potential.
“It’s the same reason we see companies with younger C-suite officials interested in the industry. Older professionals do not relate, and thus, do not have the same level of interest. I suspect this will change,” Ramsburg said.
Ramsburg is 34, an age that he said allows him to bridge the gap between both worlds.
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He spearheaded the new group after seeing a need among some of McNees’ clients who had expressed interest in being esports sponsors or team owners.
His idea was met with more curiosity than resistance from the law firm’s management committee and marketing department.
At first, they didn’t fully understand why the move made sense.
“Even fairly younger people have no exposure to the area. So when you go into a firm that’s existed for over 100 years and say, ‘Hey, we just started a practice in esports,’ you get some looks,” Ramsburg said.
But after Ramsburg explained that esports is a $900 million industry in the United States alone, with growth of 30 percent year over year, his colleagues became more willing to give it a try.
From collegiate teams to professional leagues to endorsement contracts, esports is on a trajectory to follow traditional sports, according to Ramsburg.
Harrisburg is becoming something of a regional esports hub.
Harrisburg University has joined the National Association of Collegiate Esports, and is offering esports as the university’s first varsity sport. The program is slated to launch this fall.
Advertisers also are getting into the field as companies realize that younger generations are more likely to watch other people play video games than they are to watch television, Ramsburg said.
People aged 15-25 watch the games on online esports streaming services such as Twitch, Ramsburg said.
“If you go on Twitch at some point today, it will show you various games that are being viewed at particular times. You’ll see that there are 300,000 to 400,000 people watching other people play video games at any particular time,” Ramsburg said. “So, that’s the kind of growth and that’s how big it is already without it being what I would consider mainstream sports to date.”
Headquartered in Harrisburg, McNees has around 135 attorneys and offices in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Washington, D.C.