On 10 November 2022 the European Parliament passed a resolution to call upon the European Commission and the Council to acknowledge the value of the videogame ecosystem. It further called for the development of a coherent, long-term European videogame strategy, which should benefit all actors involved fairly and adequately, while taking into account esports and the current dependence on imports and building on existing national strategies to support EU actors and EU start-ups in these sectors.
In doing so, the Parliament highlighted several important facts. The videogame ecosystem has become a leading cultural and creative industry all over the world, with an estimated European market size of EUR 23.3bln in 2021. Half of all Europeans consider themselves to be videogame players and the average age of a videogame player in Europe is 31.3 years. However, these ecosystems still lack the harmonised data, definitions and legal frameworks required to enable them to embrace their full potential. Furthermore, the sector is mostly privately owned, but benefits from measures and incentives at the national and EU level, namely the Creative Europe programme or as part of the overall support for research and innovation Horizon Europe. Although the EU is a major actor in the videogame ecosystem, the industry is largely dominated by non-EU actors. Moreover, videogames and esports use advanced technologies such as AI and virtual reality and have initiated the creation of alternative virtual spaces such as metaverses.
The European Parliament defined esports as encompassing a human element (the players), a digital element (the games themselves) and a competitive element. It differs from regular sports in that they are digital by definition. In addition, esports is a phenomenon essentially driven by private entities, with the IP rights belonging to the game publisher and competition rights either to the game publisher or arranged on a contract-by-contract basis. With regard to the educational potential of esports, the Parliament highlights that significant improvement in several key skills can be observed, such as problem-solving and analytical, social and intellectual skills, spatial coordination and teamwork, as well as better levels of concentration.
Now the European Parliament is calling for greater support and investment in research and development and training in order to maximise game creation opportunities throughout all Member States and encourage the development of and retain European talent. They propose to map and define the European videogame industry and to consider creating a "European Videogame" label. Furthermore, they highlight the need to develop a European strategy for videogame IP, utilising both the creation of new and original IP and the promotion of existing European creations and IP. In doing so, the Parliament stresses that cross-border enforcement of the IP rights of game developers and artists must be adequately protected, and that fair remuneration must be ensured.
In addition, the Parliament has explicitly commented on loot boxes and the need for transparency. Consequently, the Parliament called on the European Commission and the Member States to consider legislative measures, where appropriate, to address issues linked to the phenomena of in-game monetisation, such as luck-based game elements and "pay-to-win" systems, taking into account all possible means to protect players who are most vulnerable to aggressive designs, such as minors.
Moreover, the Parliament is looking for a long-term strategy to create coherent and comprehensive guidelines, especially on the status of professional esports players, for example when it comes to visas for esports personnel.
It will now be up to the EU legislator how to implement the Parliament's resolution. The full text of the resolution can be found here.
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