EU Parliament passes vote to recognise and fund esports, video games in Europe

The reason behind: The European Parliament’s Committee on Culture and Education (CULT) unanimously adopted a resolution that proposes a vote on whether or not the European Union should develop a long-term video game strategy. This legislation could fundamentally change the future of the video games and esports industries on the continent.

CULT is asking the wider European Parliament to increase the number of video game productions in Europe through more funding. In 2022, the Creative Europe program allocated €6 million to fund video game productions, but CULT said this was insufficient.

Similarly, CULT argued that the European game industry was chronically struggling with a talent shortage. They see this as particularly problematic because the games industry is reliant on innovation. To develop talent — both for the games industry and Europe as a whole — the resolution insists that video games should be explored as a teaching tool.

Video Games and Soft Power

MEPs of CULT — including committee rapporteur Laurence Farreng of France — stressed that both video games and esports had the potential “to contribute to EU soft power.” 

The resolution supported several initiatives to preserve, showcase, and promote European values, history and diversity. Some of these included the formation of a European Video Game Observatory to provide coordinated data and recommendations for decision-makers, an archive to preserve the most culturally significant games, and the creation of a ‘European Video Game’ label to help consumers support the EU games industry.

Additionally, the resolution will have far reaching implications for the esports industry. 

For years, esports has struggled with whether or not to define itself as a sport. The resolution will settle the debate on the continent — esports will not be regulated as sports by the EU. MEPs point to the digital component of esports and the underlying commercial interest of publishers as distinguishing factors from sports. This likely benefits IP holders who will retain greater control over their esports products than they would if they were governed like sports.

Despite this distinction, regulations are still on the way for the European esports industry. The resolution calls for developing a framework that will govern professional players’ employment, requests a new type of visa for professional players and further work to combat doping and match-fixing.

This effort by the EU and Saudi Arabia’s ~$38B investment plan shows that governments around the world are recognizing the economic, social and cultural value of the video games industry.

The Actual vote took place

The European Parliament has passed a resolution recognising the value of the esports and video game industries, recommending a long-term strategy to support and fund the sectors.

The European Union’s legislative body passed the resolution by a huge margin, with 560 voting in favour, 34 voting against and 16 abstentions.

The European Parliament resolution recognises the value that esports, and the video game industry more broadly, offers economically and culturally in Europe. It endorses the development of a long-term European video game strategy that takes into account esports and builds on existing national strategies.

The resolution itself is not binding, but a representative for the European Commission — the EU’s executive body — expressed their intention to take action during the parliamentary session.

EU legislators will now decide what, and how, to implement the Parliament’s resolution, which will then form the EU’s strategy on esports and gaming going forward. While free to decide how it’s implemented, legislators tend to follow the proposals put forward by Parliament.

The successful passage of the resolution is a major win for the European esports and gaming industries — both in terms of legitimacy, and financially. Companies will likely have access to EU funding and support once a strategy is devised.

The EU has previously provided only limited support for domestic video game production. Some funding was available through the Creative Europe and Horizon Europe programmes, but the resolution itself criticised these existing funding efforts as insufficient.

The text of the resolution affirmed the EU’s position that esports and sports are different sectors, primarily due to the fact that esports titles are owned by private entities with intellectual property rights.

However, it recognises the commercial value and potential for growth and innovation in the esports and gaming industries. The text asks the Commission to develop a charter to promote European values in esports competitions, consider the creation of a Schengen-wide esports visa, and touts the benefits of esports for education and wellbeing.

Nepomuk Nothelfer, a legal researcher who was commissioned to conduct the reports on esports for the EU, told Esports Insider the vote was a big step forward — but implementation was another challenge. “The resolution alone is a gigantic recognition of gaming and esports,” Nothelfer said.

“[But] I get the feeling the real work will begin after the resolution. Most of the time it’s before the resolution because now you have a plan, and you can act on it. But in esports it’s still so complicated. … I get the feeling that the stages afterwards will take a long time.”

The Parliament-wide debate and vote came after the EU’s Culture and Education (CULT) committee unanimously adopted a parliamentary report on the subject in August. 

The resolution was championed by Laurence Farreng, a French Member of European Parliament (MEP) for the Renew Europe Group.

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