Riot's proposed contract for pro LoL players buffs Riot, nerfs eSports

This morning, a bombshell dropped in the world of eSports: Riot Games, the company behind the insanely popular League of Legends, sent out proposed contracts for all professional players (and no, I'm not talking about that annoying kid you know who keeps saying he's "pro as heck" at LoL). Within them came the shocking stipulation that they cannot stream League’s competitors on their personal Twitch streams. The story has caused quite a bit of controversy, and for good reason--it's hilariously ridiculous. 

Let’s get this out of the way: Contracts are always up for negotiation. No one at any of the LCS (League Championship Series) teams nor anyone at Riot Games has signed anything yet. The terms laid out by Riot that state certain games cannot be played by players employed by the LCS (as reported by onGamers) are not set in stone. So, the seemingly draconian rules laid out by the League of Legends developer can change at any moment.

That said, the leaked contract has found itself to be the object of much scorn from the eEports community in the hours since it was posted. The list of banned games is nearly 30 games strong, including some of League’s biggest challengers like Dota 2, the StarCraft games, and… Hearthstone, which, actually isn't really a competitor, but it's on there anyway.

Well, that seems rather harsh, doesn’t it? By outright banning professional players from playing any of their competitor’s games, it seems that Riot has chosen to go ahead and remove their players from the eSports scene as a whole, instead forcing them into a space where they can only play one competitive game, at least publicly.

From a business perspective, it makes total sense. If you were, say, Coca-Cola (a company that is sponsoring Riot’s amateur Challenger tournaments, by the way), and you were to live stream someone drinking 2-liter of the stuff, would you like if they took a break in between glasses to take pleasurable swigs of Pepsi or Red Bull? Probably not. You’d want viewers to think that the only thing in the world worth drinking is a nice, frosty glass of Coke.

In much the same way, Riot Games doesn’t want the rest of the world to play Dota 2, Hearthstone, or Heroes of Newerth. They want you to spend all of your time on the Summoner’s Rift, dropping dollars on champions and Popstar Ahri skins. Riot’s got the biggest game in the world right now on their hands, and they want to make sure it stays that way.

Though, it is undeniable that something about the whole situation smells rather fishy. For as much as it's like Coke not wanting to see you drink Pepsi, it's also like the NFL not wanting its players to be seen playing Angry Birds. Pro League players have been playing competitor’s games on their personal streams for a while now (looking at your Hearthstone playing habit, TSM Dyrus), with nary a peep from Riot. There’s a rumor floating around that Riot asked coaches to request that their players don’t play other eSports during last year’s competitive season, but that’s fairly unconfirmed.

So, why would Riot make this change now? Well, things are getting heated in the eSports scene. Sure, Riot is still the king of the jungle (get it?) in terms of eSports viewership--a lead that’s growing every day--but there are definitely those who are carving out their piece of the pie. This summer’s Dota 2 world championship tournament The International 2013 drew over a million concurrent viewers, while veteran standby StarCraft 2 remains incredibly popular. With next-gen consoles including built-in streaming capabilities, eSports is only going to rise in popularity.

However, the exclusivity treatment seems like a questionable move. Sure, players can stream games that aren’t on the ban list, but the request comes at somewhat of a higher cost.

Riot Games has always claimed to be supportive of eSports as a whole, not just their game in particular. Now, as suggested by this proposed contract, it seems it’s decided to take the wrong route. It may be unintentional on their part, but such an exclusivity makes it feel like the company is pushing to delegitimize games that aren’t League of Legends as a whole. For a growing scene, that’s troubling.

For eSports to grow, more games need to be present on the scene. We need variety in our spectator games. The stronger every game gets, the stronger the eSports community gets. And Riot’s new contract with LCS pros actively works against that goal.

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  • Talvari - December 5, 2013 7:59 a.m.

    Watch out guys, Fat Princess is going to drive away LoLs audience. Riot confuses me sometimes >....> I mean i can kinda understand not streaming other ARTS but Fat Princess?!? I wonder if Valve would do something like this.
  • GOD - December 5, 2013 12:10 a.m.

    I find this quite silly. If you have someone signing a contract for your "whatever" then shouldn't they be dedicated enough to prefer your "whatever" over another companies? Making this rule is silly because by them being signed with you, even if they play something else, they aren't signed with something else so the endorsement is made clear by the one they have the actual contract with. Basically, rather than have the first celebrity who will sign a contract to sponsor coke, why not use a celebrity who legitimately prefers coke? This is them being overly strict out of fear of being overtaken or losing any ground.
  • steven-anderson - December 4, 2013 10:01 p.m.

    I think this is absurd unless Riot begins to actually pay the players. If Riot pays players on a per hour basis, then they can make demands for the times they are paying them to stream and to not play any games during that time. If the players want to stream and not get payed to do so, then by no means should they sign the contract.
  • Hashbaz - December 4, 2013 7:10 p.m.

    Something like this would make sense if they were joining an official LoL sponsored Team. I mean an NFL team doesn't want a player to play for a competing team. That being said, to require all pro players to sign it is stupid, especially since as the sport grows there will probably be teams sponsored by different companies.
  • Doctalen - December 4, 2013 5:50 p.m.

    I haven't played LoL or Dota or any games like that nor I have actively watched livestreams or let's plays. But I do know that Riot has a very good reputation as both a free-to-play company and as a game studio. While I understand the point of this contract is to help boost LoL's popularity, last time I checked, the players don't work for Riot itself nor do they hold any business contracts. If the players were to rely on the money made from streaming/championships to support themselves, this type of contract is ridiculous and cuts away what I'd imagine a sizable chunk of their income. Especially when there is no guarantee that they will be paid anything if they lose the ability to stream games they want or even lose some tournaments. Either Riot needs to introduce some sort of incentive for them to sign this contract or it'll be a huge ass flop that'll stain their good reputation. Seriously its like telling a Football player that he isn't going to be paid for his job, he can't get another job on the side (in sports), and he his only other means of making money is if he wins a championship. Its batshit stupid.
  • FierceVoltage - December 4, 2013 5:47 p.m.

    So the contract prevents Pro LoL players from streaming other games? Or from playing them altogether? I don't know much about LoL and Twitch.
  • GR_RyanTaljonick - December 4, 2013 6:35 p.m.

    just from streaming

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