Current issues of sustainability in esports

In recent years, there has been a steady increase in multidisciplinary research on various aspects of Esports. One current topic of interest to both academia and industry is the issue of sustainability. Especially with the growth of esports, this topic is expected to become even more important. As such, this study investigates the research question, “What issues must be addressed to develop a sustainable future for esports?”

For this study, a workshop research methodology was deemed most suitable as it lends itself well to exploring and identifying research areas and challenges that may be vague or explicit. A total of 60 participants, representing both industry and academia, attended two concurrent workshops hosted at Jönköping University where they were assigned to small subgroups in which they identified issues and proposed solutions. The data from these workshops were then coded and analyzed to identify the most important themes.

Three main sustainability themes emerged from these discussions. First, social sustainability was recognized by various stakeholders as one of the most pressing issues in this context. This theme includes the social and mental health of stakeholders. It also encompasses the issue of diversity and inclusion in esports, reminding us that the esports industry is still mainly composed of young, white, able-bodied men. Second, the theme of social and economic sustainability was discovered with the sub-themes of inconsistency in industry standards, governance and institutionalization of esports, transparency of structures, and the fragmented nature of the contemporary ecosystem. Finally, economic sustainability and business logic was identified as the last main theme, considering the training and education of esports workers, and revenue structures.

In light of these three themes, the paper presents 3 propositions: (1) social sustainability in esports requires addressing issues of health and inclusion, (2) social and economic sustainability in esports requires stable industry structures, increased legitimacy, and decentralized governance, and (3) economic sustainability in esports requires evolving business logic.

Nystrom, A-G., McCauley, B., Macey, J., Scholtz, T., Bescombes, N., Törhönen, M., Hiltscher, J., Cestino, J., Orme, S., & Rumble, R. (2022). Current issues of sustainability in esports. International Journal of Esports. 1(1)


Aims: Sustainability refers to the ability of esports to survive or persist. The aim of the paper is to explore emerging themes that support the development of a sustainable esports industry.

Methods and results: This study is based on a workshop methodology, which aims to identify and explore topics perceived as most pertinent by individuals with an intimate understanding of the dynamics of the esports context. Two workshops were held with a total of 64 participants, representing both academia and esports industry stakeholders. Interpretations of the sustainability of esports were thus recorded, developed, critiqued, and refined through social interaction with experts. The results indicate three critical themes to address regarding the development of sustainability of esports, namely a) health and inclusiveness, b) the incomplete industry structure, and c) the immature business logic.

Conclusions: We argue that sustainability is dependent on how well esports industry stakeholders can address the identified themes. Currently, social sustainability is the primary concern of both practitioners and researchers of esports. Economic sustainability mostly deals with securing business growth, while environmental sustainability is not yet perceived as a relevant topic (e.g., using sustainable technologies and energy-saving related to gaming and competitive events). Structures and processes within esports presently constitute the focus of sustainability in esports.

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