UPDATE: Riot Games have now stated via a Reddit post that they’ve changed the contracts due to the overall negative response. They will now allow LCS players to stream whatever they want, only forbidding them to accept sponsorship from other game companies for promoting their games. Further information can be found in the official statement:
There’s been a ton of discussion around our LCS team contracts, which stipulated active LCS players couldn’t stream a variety of other games.
First, background on why we did this: there’ve been instances of other game studios trying to buy access to League fans by using (or trying to use) LCS teams/players to promote their competing games on stream.
The way we chose to deal with this was clearly an overreach. It hit our goal of preventing companies from advertising through LCS players, but it also encroached on pros’ ability to have fun and entertain viewers during long Challenger queues – and we realize that’s not cool.
After reading all of your comments and having a LOT of internal debate over the last 24 hours, we’re going to be changing the LCS team requirement to something that more closely matches our intent. While under contract to the LCS, teams and players can’t accept sponsorship from other game companies to promote other titles. Besides that, they are free to stream any games they want.
I’ll be hanging around to answer questions if you guys have any. Thanks for helping us make a better decision on this.
Original post: It’s widely known that Riot Games is trying as hard as possible to achieve the best for eSports, make it up to par with real sports. This all happened with the fact that LCS players are now officially considered as professional athletes, followed by Season 3 finals being held in the sold out Staples Center. But we have to remember that in the end of the day eSports is filled with different games competing with each other, and Riot knows that very well.
The contracts that have been recently sent out to pro teams competing in the Season 4 LCS contain one specific part that has caused quite a bit of controversy, with the “Sponsorship and Streaming Restricted List” saying that players are forbidden to stream a number of games, including DotA 2, World of Tanks and all Blizzard games. Needless to say, the whole thing has seen a lot of hate from both fans and affected players.
In a Reddit post, the Director of Esports at Riot Games, Whalen “RiotMagus” Rozelle confirmed the aforementioned, also adding the company’s reasoning behind their decision:
We say this all the time: we want League of Legends to be a legitimate sport. There are some cool things that come from that (salaried professional athletes, legitimate revenue streams, visas, Staples Center), but there’s also a lot of structural work that needs to be done to ensure a true professional setting.
We recognize there may be some differences of opinion in the perception of pro players’ streams. In the past, pro gamers only had to worry about their personal brands when streaming and, at most, may have had to worry about not using the wrong brand of keyboard to keep their sponsor happy. Now, however, these guys are professionals contracted to a professional sports league. When they’re streaming to 50,000 fans, they’re also representing the sport itself.
I can’t stress enough how these guys in the LCS are on the road to being real, legitimate athletes. This is new territory for a lot of teams (especially in esports), because the transition goes from being a group of talented individuals to being real icons of a sport and a league. Similarly, you probably wouldn’t see an NFL player promoting Arena Football or a Nike-sponsored player wearing Reebok on camera. Pro players are free to play whatever games they want – we’re simply asking them to keep in mind that, on-stream, they’re the face of competitive League of Legends.
Don’t you think this has gone a bit too far? Maybe the whole idea of trying to make eSports just like real sports simply won’t work. The statement above does have some solid arguments on the topic, but the comparisons are simply irrelevant. We are not talking just about sponsors here, we’re talking about different games. Streaming has evolved to what it is right now partially because people can express themselves by playing whatever they want, creating a persona that is enjoyable to watch. The moment when a company restricts your rights in such a way streaming becomes a blatant way of marketing your own game via professionals that happen to play it for a living.
But don’t grab your pitchforks just yet and let’s see how things evolve…