What Makes a Good Contract and Club? Tips for Players
Vainglory is growing up fast and teams are being approached by various existing entities with offers of buyouts and partnerships. We have been approached by a titan of the industry some time ago, G2 entered the scene by recruiting a team, and R3D joined SK Gaming. I'd wager a few Vainglory teams are in the process of discussing a potential buyout or merger this very moment.
Being approached by an existing team can be a good thing; it can also be a bad thing. As in any industry, there are companies that treat their contractors well and there are those that don't. Hopefully, this post will help you sort out the good from the bad. You can always reach out to us for confidential non-legal advice as well (you don’t need to disclose who is approaching you).
What’s In a Good Contract?
We think a good contract should have the following player protections.
If you’re on a starting roster, you should be paid for your services. It’s great if the contract ties a large percentage of your compensation to performance - that’s only fair. But it’s a red flag if the contract has no guaranteed pay whatsoever, or no way of earning decent pay. Don’t fall for “we’ll pay if you perform” promises; this is business, not politics.
Reasonable Winnings Split
The percentage the players get will vary from one organization to another, but make sure it’s in your favor. If the organization provides a lot of support - free travel, food, and housing, analysts, coaches, etc. - you can agree to a 50/50 split. But these should be real services, not just promised ones. Otherwise, a 30/70 or 20/80 are more reasonable splits (70-80% going directly to the players). Ours is 15/85.
Allowing Other Revenue
The company should not take a large percentage, if anything at all, from various additional revenue streams you may have as a player.
As Riot wrote recently, there’s at least one 10 year deal in League of Legends. Yeah. 10 years. That’s insane. While Riot will implement rules to limit contracts to 3 years, Vainglory right now is not as mature as League of Legends and so we recommend 1 year max, or 3 to 6 months if you’re not sure if you’re getting a good deal.
No “Contract Ceiling”
Make sure your contract explicitly specifies that you as a player will be informed about another organization approaching your organization about you. If you never know who else is interested in you, or how much they’re offering - how will you know your market value? You won’t, and thus you will very likely be underpaid. It’s okay to be paid less if you are in it for other causes; but you should have the right to know when this happens instead of being in the dark.
Good Buyout Options
The whole point of signing a contract is to have a guarantee of services over a period of time. That said, reality is such that things often don’t work out. A good contract should have 3 buyout options:
- player can pay $$ to get out of contract without penalties. This amount is usually large.
- player can pay $ to get out of contract but can’t be competitive for a certain period of time. The $ amount is usually low, but the duration of no-competition varies.
- company can pay the player $ to get out of contract, and the player is free to continue to compete for other companies. The $ amount in this case is similarly low.
For reference, we use the same $ amount for both options 2 and 3, so that it’s equally fair for both parties.
You should be able to terminate the contract if the company acts in violation of it. It’s as simple as that.
Nice to Haves
We have a few extra things that further protect the player but are not necessary for the contract to be solid. For example, GankStars can’t terminate the contract during a competitive event without a good amount of notice. Or, if you were on a starting roster and played at least one game in a competition and then you were benched, you’ll still be guaranteed a (smaller) percentage of the wins.
Other Red Flags
Are you being pressured to sign? Do you hear a lot of promises but not much in writing? Is the organization being clear as to who they want to sign and who they don't? Watch out for these red flags and anything else that feels fishy.
What's in a Good Organization?
Organizations will probably not disclose their balance sheet or full finances to the players, just like a private business rarely discloses theirs. That said, there should be a lot of transparency in terms of vision, short- and long-term plans, payouts, etc. If you find out that an org keeps their players in complete darkness, that's a warning sign. One simply can't feel like they're a part of the cause if they don't know what's going on - that's the difference between a job and a passion.
Get references from existing players in the eSports club that's approaching you or you're trying to join. It doesn't matter if the club doesn't have players in your game yet. Hang out with those players, talk about life, ask generic questions about the club, and get a sense of their culture. Is it a culture that inspires you, or one that you feel you'd have to "deal with"?
Also talk to players that have left the club, and try to understand their perspective. The main focus here is not to see who was right or wrong, but to see if the breakup was treated with respect by the organization. Not everything can be written down in a contract; in situations that are gray areas, you'll know that a club that respects its players will make the right decision.
Integrity is hard; you often have to pass on the "easy way out" or an instant reward. But integrity inspires, instills trust and confidence, and promotes fair play. This also means that you should expect the club to treat you equally to other players and enforce rules. You want to join a club that can get tough when needed, but only when needed. Otherwise, it can devolve into chaos or lose respect of the community in the long run.
Get guaranteed minimum pay, reasonable prize money split, few to no restrictions on additional sources of revenue, short duration, good buyout options, the right to know when another org is interested in you, and hopefully some nice to haves. Watch out for pressure to sign, a lot of talk but no walk, and the org being unclear about who gets contracted and who doesn’t. Talk to current players inside that org and those that left to get multiple perspectives. Email us at email@example.com with any questions - it's hard to capture everything in a single article.
If you do contact us, we'll keep the conversation confidential. These kinds of decisions can change one's immediate life-path and are sensitive topics. If something is outside of our expertise, we'll be happy to suggest some authorities to talk to, especially if it's related to legal advice. It benefits everyone, including GankStars, to have a healthy community of competitive players that are just as well-protected as the companies they sign contracts with.