Law and Order
Canada's first Esports-specific law firm helps young gamers understand contractual jargon
By Mouhamad Rachini
Photo courtesy of MKM Group
Evan Kubes (left) and Josh Marcus launched MKM Group in late September 2018. Their organization serves as both a law firm and an agency for Esports players and content creators.
It all started with Super Smash Bros.
“When we attended law school together, we spent a little too much time playing video games relative to studying,” said Evan Kubes, president and co-founder of Marcus Kubes Management (MKM) Group. “And our game of choice was Super Smash Bros. We were really into it.”
Kubes and Josh Marcus, Managing Partner and Co-Founder of MKM Group, attended the University of Windsor School of Law between 2013 and 2016 with hopes of a career in law. But the duo had a love for video gaming and wanted to be involved in the industry.
“We did always want to try to leverage our legal background in some ways to video games,” Kubes said. “But we were having a hard time figuring out the right way to do it.”
Their big break came in early 2018. At the time, Richard Tyler Blevins, more commonly known as Ninja, was gaining popularity as a video game streamer on Twitch. He signed sponsorship deals with several brands, including Samsung, with his manager (and wife) Jessica Blevins overseeing everything.
These deals inspired Kubes and Marcus, who questioned if other gamers were equally represented by agents and law firms in similar negotiations.
"We saw that he was signing these deals and considered whether similar gamers were signing without the help of representatives or agents," Marcus said.
“We started doing a lot of research on this,” Kubes said. “And what we found out was that this is a massive issue in the world of Esports.”
Motivated by this hole in the industry, Kubes and Marcus launched MKM Group in late September. It is Canada’s first full-service law firm and agency that serves Esports players. With the trajectory Esports and video gaming in general are climbing at, the duo believes now is the time for a law firm and agency like theirs.
“There is value in Esports,” Kubes said. “In terms of the number of impressions and the reach that you can get through technology and the digital world that you can’t necessarily get through traditional avenues.”
Kubes and Marcus have a number of reasons why they believe that Esports is a sustainable business for a company to involve itself in. For one, the duo believes that Esports are more accessible to a broader pool of talent than traditional sports.
“Unlike traditional sports, you don’t need to be 6 foot 5, 250 pounds to play,” Kubes said. “All you really need is two hands and a cell phone, and you could conceivably become a professional Esports star. So the fact that pretty much anyone can play is one supporting factor for Esports.”
Video games have also refused to die and have instead shown an ability to adapt with the changing demands of players. Esports is their latest form.
“Esports are an evolution of video games,” Marcus said. “Video games are changing, from the Atari to the Nintendo 64 and eventually, you’ll get into things like virtual reality. It’s almost a sign of things to come, so I don’t see it as going out of style as really just continuing to evolve.”
This has allowed Esports to become a worldwide business, another reason why the duo believes Esports is sustainable.
“Esports is a very global industry,” Kubes said. “Unlike, let’s say, the NFL, which is very North American-based and not widespread in Europe or Asia, video games transcend culture, gender, race, everything. No matter where you are in the world, videos games exist and people will play.”
Despite the positives, the duo remain troubled by the amount of young gamers they see directly involved in legal negations.
“You have a lot of young people aged 16 to 25-years old,” Kubes said. “And a lot of these kids don’t have an appreciation of their own value or the terms of the agreements that their signing.”
“There will be clauses in contracts, leagues or tournaments where you might give away a substantial amount of your rights and your intellectual property rights,” Marcus said. “And the streamers might not necessarily have a full appreciation for what they’re signing themselves up for.”
This is a concern that is shared by some of those involved in the Toronto Esports industry. Martin Omes, Manager of Team Reciprocity and an organizer with Greater Toronto Halo, says that he’s met players who have run into trouble because of the contracts they’ve signed.
“It’s a big issue,” he said. “To the point where a lot of players are still saying things like ‘I haven’t been paid by my organization’ or ‘why did my organization take this much money?’ It’s a difficult grey area and lots of young players have really been screwed over because of this.”
With the arrival of MKM Group and the potential rise of other similar law firms and agencies, Omes believes these groups will supply the proper background and assistance needed to tackle things like law jargon and different imbalances.
“Just like any other professional athlete, Esports players need to have the proper representation to be able to not get screwed over,” he said.
At the end of the day, that’s what MKM Group wants to provide Esports players with.
“Our whole goal coming out of this is to help build that infrastructure and help build that regulatory framework necessary to support these athletes,” Kubes said.
You can get in touch with Kubes and Marcus through their website, https://www.mkmesports.com.