Esports: A Multidisciplinary Research Perspective

Submissions open: 30 November 2023 

Call for Papers

Electronic sports, or esports as they are more generally known, have been referred to as “alternative sport realities” (Hemphill, 2005, p. 199), and can be defined more precisely as “professional or semi-professional competitive gaming in an organized format (tournament or league) with a specific goal/prize, such as winning a championship title or prize money” (Newzoo, 2021, p.8). The last decade has witnessed the explosive growth of esports in terms of viewership and revenue. Meanwhile, there is increasing official recognition of the significance of esports by societies, governments, international event organizers, and sports policymakers. Numerous universities now offer esports education programs at bachelor, master and executive education levels, and for the first time, esports will be a medal event at the 2022 Asian Games and a demonstration sport at the Paris 2024 Olympic Games. With continuous growth, the former ‘niche market’ of esports has transformed into a mainstream global phenomenon.

The boom of the esports industry, the interconnectedness of multiple platforms and media, and the complex relationships between different stakeholders posit various opportunities and challenges (Meng-Lewis et al., 2022). This special issue hence aims to firstly, provide a more comprehensive understanding of how esports have transformed the nature of sports – from what is involved and who is involved, to where and how the sport is staged; secondly, to examine the impact of esports development from different disciplinary perspectives. This special issue is expected to advance the understanding of the esports industry and explore its economic, social, technological, and political implications. We welcome multidisciplinary research (including business and management, sociology, media and communication, sports, technology, and political research disciplines) that focuses on exploring the opportunities and challenges of esports research and practice taken from multiple stakeholders’ perspectives. More specifically, we call for conceptual and empirical papers that build or advance theories in esports research and/or address or investigate practical issues and implications in the esports industry. There are four key areas of interest for this special issue: 

1. Economic value creation and sustainability of the esports ecosystem

There are numerous ways for an esports entity (i.e., a team, club, league, tournament or event on a local/national/international level) to operate depending on its business model that typically involves customer value proposition, core resources, profit model, partner/customer relationship, cost structure, etc. (Parshakov et al., 2020). We call for papers that explore the different business models that esports entities apply and evaluate their advantages and disadvantages. Our special issue also encourages investigation into how the concept of sustainability could be considered and addressed within the esports context (Flegr and Schmidt, 2022) at the individual, community, organizational and institutional levels (Seo et al., 2019). 

2. Social engagement and social connectedness through esports

Esports as an increasingly popular form of gaming can be regarded as a “third place” in addition to home and work where meaningful social interaction is evident (Steinkuehler and Williams, 2006). Esports games provide an environment in which players engage in online social interactions and collaborative community-building (Hamari and Sjöblom, 2017). This special issue welcomes papers that explore esports as an emerging opportunity for social interactions, lifestyle sports and sharing activities, and provide a better understanding of esports fans from the perspectives of immersive experience, consumption, and engagement (Miah et al., 2020). 

3. Esports, user experience and digital technologies

Esports is a novel industry driven by digital technologies. The immersive, interactive and collaborative shared virtual 3D environment provided by the Metaverse is opening doors to the esports industry. The latest technological advancements, such as Web 3.0, 5G, virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), mixed reality (MR) and extended reality, are drastically changing the global esports arena (Frevel et al., 2022).

Esports is becoming a greater part of the Metaverse through its continuous expansion of marketing and business practices in the virtual universe. Given the digital nature and commercialization of esports, it is important to understand how digital communication theories and strategies would apply to esports and how their effectiveness can be measured (Kelly and Van der Leij, 2020). This special issue welcomes research that explores the impact of technologies on esports from multiple perspectives including the players, game publishers, sponsors (brands), spectators and broadcasters. 

4. Governance and political implications for esports

Esports has not yet established international governance with the power to define rules across games (Peng et al., 2020). There is a lack of formal regulation and oversight for esports despite potential motions that were discussed by the International Olympic Committee and the Olympic Council of Asia (Murray et al., 2020). Hence, this special issue welcomes research providing a comprehensive understanding of the current governance structure of esports which is beneficial for policymaking regarding esports talent development, employment protection, the well-being of esports professionals and the sustainability of the industry. In addition, we encourage further thinking on how societies, nations and regions can benefit from esports aside from the economic and financial gains (Murray et al., 2020).

Topics of interest in the special issue include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • The differential impact of various digital business models among esports entities.
  • The exploration and development of sustainability within the esports ecosystem.
  • The differences in esports economies across countries and cultures.
  • The role of esports in establishing connections and maintaining social interactivity between individuals.
  • Various stakeholders’ engagement in esports communities.
  • Factors shaping esports fans’ motivation, engagement, and consumption.
  • The process of loyalty development in esports at different levels (with individual players, teams, clubs, and games).
  • The application of cloud-streaming and blockchain in esports.
  • The impact of cryptocurrencies and NFTs (non-fungible tokens) on esports.
  • The future user experience of esports in the Metaverse.
  • The impact of new technologies on user experience and esports development.
  • The use of digital media in popularizing esports and attracting sponsorship and investment.
  • The dynamics of online interactions between esports entities and fans via digital platforms.
  • Innovative sponsorship and marketing communication strategies through esports and their effectiveness.
  • The roles of governing and regulatory organizations within the esports value chain.
  • The dynamics and implications of esports governance.
  • How esports is linked to national brand and identity building.


Submission and Review Schedules 

Submission system open: 30 November 2023

Paper submission due: 31 December 2023

First review result: 15 April 2024

Revision due: 15 July 2024

Second review result: 15 September 2024

Final decision: 31 October 2024


Guest Editors

Yue Meng-Lewis
Open University Business School, The Open University, UK

Hongfei Liu
Southampton Business School, University of Southampton, UK

Simon Chadwick
Skema Business School, France

Sascha Schmidt
WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management, Germany


Editorial Review Board

Alex Fenton, University of Chester, UK
Andy Miah, Salford University, UK
Ben Shields, MIT Sloan School of Management, USA
Chanaka Jayawardhena, University of Surrey, UK 
Chunjia Han, Birkbeck, University of London, UK
Despoina Filiou, The Open University, UK
Dominik Schreyer, WHU - Otto Beisheim School of Management, Germany 
Donna Wong, Waseda University, Japan
Doyoung Pyun, Loughborough University, UK
Fahad Ibrahim, University of Birmingham, UK 
Gary Crawford, Salford University, UK
Gordon Liu, The Open University, UK
Huiping Xian, University of Leicester, UK
Iman Jana, University of Essex, UK
Johanna Pirker, University of Graz, Austria
Martin Carlsson-Wall, Stockholm School of Economics, Sweden 
Mohamed H. Elsharnouby, Cairo University, Egypt
Richard Dron, Salford University, UK
Richard Godfrey, The Open University, UK
Richard Oddy, Birmingham City University, UK
Russell Cowley, Birmingham City University, UK
Severina Cartwright, University of Liverpool, UK
Wasim Ahmed, Stirling University, UK
Weiyue Wang, University of Birmingham, UK
Wentong Liu, Zhongnan University of Economics and Law, China
Yiran Su, University of Massachusetts Amherst, USA
Yupei Zhao, Zhejiang University, China


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Frevel, N., Beiderbeck, D., and Schmidt, S. L. (2022). “The impact of technology on sports-A prospective study”, Technological Forecasting & Social Change, Vol. 182 No. 121838.

Hamari, J., and Sjöblom, M. (2017), “What is eSports and why do people watch it?” Internet Research, Vol. 27 No. 2, pp. 211–232.

Hemphill, D. (2005), “Cybersport” Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, Vol. 32 No. 2, pp.195-207.

Kelly, S. J., and Van der Leij, D. (2020), “A new frontier: alcohol sponsorship activation through esports”, Marketing Intelligence & Planning, Vol. 39 No. 4, pp. 533-558.

Meng-Lewis, Y., Wong, D., Zhao, Y., and Lewis, G. (2022), “Understanding complexity and dynamics in the career development of eSports athletes”, Sport Management Review, Vol. 25 No. 1, pp. 106-133.

Miah, A., Fenton, A., and Chadwick, S. (2020), “Virtual reality and sports: The rise of mixed, augmented, immersive, and esports experiences”, In: Schmidt S.L. (Ed.), 21st Century Sports: Future of Business and Finance. Springer, Cham. pp. 249-262.

Murray, S., Birt, J. and Blakemore, S. (2020), “eSports diplomacy: towards a sustainable ‘gold rush’”, Sport in Society, Vol. 25 No. 8, pp. 1419-1437.

Newzoo (2021), “Global Esports & Live Streaming Market Report 2021” (accessed 9 May 2021)

Parshakov, P., Naidenova, I., and Barajas, A. (2020), “Spillover effect in promotion: Evidence from video game publishers and eSports tournaments”, Journal of Business Research, Vol. 118, pp. 262-270.

Peng, Q., Dickson, G., Scelles, N., Grix, J., and Brannagan, P. M. (2020), “Esports governance: Exploring stakeholder dynamics”, Sustainability, Vol. 12 No. 19, 8270.

Seo, Y., Dolan, R., and Buchanan-Oliver, M. (2019), “Playing games: advancing research on online and mobile gaming consumption”, Internet Research, Vol. 29 No. 2, pp. 289-292.

Steinkuehler, C. A., and Williams, D. (2006), “Where everybody knows your (screen) name: Online games as “third places”.” Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, Vol. 11 No. 4, pp. 885–909.