Fortnite Player's Lawsuit Against His Team Could Set Precedent For Predatory eSports Contracts
Fortnite is one of the biggest games in the world with massive Hollywood movie crossover events and special edition Xbox consoles to underscore its popularity. The game also has a dark underbelly with over 1,000 cheaters banned during the Fortnite World Cup alone. Furthering that drama, Fortnite also has one of its top streamers fighting a very public battle against his team over an allegedly oppressive contract.
The world of eSports is likened to the "Wild West" by many, as there are no rules and regulations covering players and teams. Some compare the current environment between players and teams to the way Baseball was before players unionized. Many are waiting to see what happened between FaZE Clan and Turney Tenney, who is one of the most popular Fortnite streamers in the game currently.
Tenney has 10 million YouTube followers and can draw more than 10 million viewers monthly to watch him play the game. His viewers have made him and his team millions, but despite the millions, he and his team are in the throws of a lawsuit right now. Tenney filed a complaint in California district court against FaZe Clan that alleges the clan is violating the California Talent Agency act. The 21-year-old Fortnite player says that the contract he signed with the group in 2018, that he has tried to leave, is "grossly oppressive, onerous, and one-sided."
He goes on to say that the "Gamer Agreement" that he signed with FaZe Clan entitles the clan to a finder's fee of up to 80% of the revenue paid by third-parties, to associate with Tenney. Talk about one-sided, that's more like a "finder's fee" for being the main talent. The complaint says that FaZe Clan has enjoyed the fruits of this illegal business model with impunity until now.
Contracts gamers sign with clans are often done with very short turn around times of 48-hours required, giving little time to go over the contract and seek counsel on it. Tenney says that his campaign aims to shift the balance of power to the gamers and content creators who drive the industry and create value. The case has the potential to dramatically change the dynamics of eSports business contracts in the future.