By Sheila Pursglove
Attorney Evan Kubes came across an article six months ago about the growth of esports, and the phenomenal rise of Tyler “Ninja” Blevins and his sizable endorsement deals.
“While I’d long been a fan of esports I never really paid attention to the economics,” Kubes said. “I asked myself, can a streamer really make nearly seven figures a month? Are League of Legends players really making north of $1 million a year?
“I found this completely fascinating, so I started looking deeper into the business model and realized that fundamentally, esports looked very similar to traditional sports — in both, the key features are teams, players, and sponsors.”
The stats are eye-popping.
Kubes notes the global video game industry accounts for more than $120 billion in revenue; and the biggest esports tournament, The International, held in Vancouver last year, had a prize pool of $25 million, with the winning team taking home $11 million.
Streaming also brings in loads of money for those who play video games for an audience, with “Fortnite,” leading the way.
Kubes figured esports and traditional sports must share similar supporting infrastructure — but he discovered was there wasn’t a single esports dedicated law firm or agency in Canada, and only two esports dedicated law firms in the U.S.
“Esports is the ‘Wild West,’” he said. “You’re generally dealing with young people, who often don’t have an appreciation for their own value or an appreciation for the terms of the agreements their signing. In many cases, they were being taken advantage of.”
It was a light bulb moment for Kubes.
“It was the entrepreneurial pursuit I’d been looking for,” he said. “I immediately saw this as an opportunity to help build the infrastructure and regulatory framework necessary to support talent and help make esports a perennial player in the global markets — which it’s quickly becoming.”
Last October, Kubes teamed with attorney Josh Marcus to launch MKM Esports Inc., a global firm based in Toronto, and recognized as Canada's first full service law firm and management agency dedicated to esports and content creators.
In just a few months, the fledgling firm has grown to represent over 200 clients — esport athletes, content creators, influencers, streamers, game developers, teams, and organizations.
“I’m a huge sports fan, and there are few things I like more than spending a Sunday afternoon watching the NFL. But what makes esports so special to me, is its inherent accessibility. You no longer need to be 6 feet, inches tall and weigh 250 pounds to be a professional athlete — now, anyone with ambition and a cellphone, can conceivably become a professional gamer,” Kubes said.
“In this sense, esports transcends gender and race, it connects communities and places everyone on an equal playing field.”
MKM Esports has partnered with the charity “Do a Barrel Roll,” (DBR) that organizes, facilitates, and energizes the benefits of gaming.
“Gaming has an immense capacity for driving social good, so DBR uses gaming as a vehicle to share personal anecdotes on its innate positive power,” Kubes said.
In another community effort, Kubes is working with Autism Speaks Canada, heading an initiative that uses Esports and gaming as an alternative medium to help people with autism express themselves and form a sense of community.
The president and co-founder at MKM Group, Kubes holds an undergraduate degree in health sciences, with honors, from Queens University in Kingston, Ontario.
Before law school, he spent six months at an intellectual property law firm in Toronto to get a feel for his potential career.
“I had an amazing experience while at Kestenberg, Siegal, Lipkus LLP,” he said. “One highlight was my involvement with the Toronto Police Financial Crimes Unit to reduce the sale of counterfeit goods. My role, which included direct communications with notable multi-national corporations, helped lead to the largest seizure of counterfeit goods in Toronto history — $6.5 million — and the arrest of 11 illegal distributors.”
For his work, Kubes was honored with the Toronto Police Partnership Award.
He earned his J.D. in the Dual J.D. program offered by the University of Windsor and Detroit Mercy law schools, where he received an award for academic performance.
“The best part was the collegiality,” he said, adding that he and Marcus were at Windsor Law together. “You spend nearly 24/7 with your classmates and form an intimate bond with virtually every person. It remains the only time in my life where I didn’t experience cliques or small groups. The people I met there are still some of my best friends today.”
He also pays tribute to the Detroit Mercy Law professors.
“It always felt they had a genuine interest in our success and always made themselves available,” he said.
Kubes, whose father and uncle were both lawyers, started out in medical malpractice claims.
“I was attracted to Med Mal mainly because of its complexity, the eight-figure claims, and because it’s one of the highest regarded fields in litigation,” he said. “I was on the plaintiff side, and defense counsel were all from top firms — what’s the point of doing anything if you aren’t going up against the best?”
A Toronto native, Kubes still makes his home in the Ontario capital, with a considerable amount of business travel to California and New York.
In his leisure time, he enjoys video games and watching NFL games.
“One of my life goals is to find the world’s best burger — if a burgers on the menu, there’s a 99 percent chance I’m ordering it,” he says with a smile.
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