This morning’s arrest of Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli has been celebrated with cheers across the web. Unfortunately, his involvement in pro gaming indicates dark growing pains the eSports industry — young, new, and possibly worth $3 billion by 2020 — will be subject to as it approaches global recognition.
Shkreli’s arrest comes from an investigation of fraud during his time as Retrophin’s hedge fund manager, and not for his widely criticized (but legal) markup of life-saving drugs used by HIV patients. But that’s how Shkreli became a millionaire super-villain, a frat bro in a polo and lacked empathy. And he really pissed off everybody: possessing the only available copy of Wu-Tang Clan’s Once Upon a Time in Shaolin, he promised to play it on his live YouTube stream… and then just didn’t. Although it’s possible we may finally hear that Wu-Tang album soon.
His involvement in eSports was less villainous, nothing more than buying up and merging teams, but becoming the Lex Luthor of pharmaceuticals doesn’t bode well in association to a new worldwide sport and how it deal with corrupt figures. Back in October, 12 people in South Korea were arrested in connection to several fixed pro StarCraft II matches arranged by local mobsters.
And in April, the Swedish eSports sponsor Trig Social Media, who were noted for buying up Smite, League of Legends teams, and one of the best StarCraft II players in such a short time, were investigated by European authorities for “suspicions of irregularities.” In 2012, prominent Russian eSports personality and Moscow Five owner Dmitry Smilyanets was arrested for unidentified cyber crimes by the FBI.
So while eSports might be new it is no less immune to corruption, echoing the backroom plotting that plagued American baseball and boxing in the early 20th century and FIFA for almost its entire existence. There are other Martin Shkrelis today, and they will be around tomorrow. How it deals with them will determine its future.