Why Riot Really Needs To Rethink Pro Stream Restrictions

By Nathan Grayson on December 5th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

When I wrote my Homeric epic about attending League of Legends’ Championship Series, one of my biggest fears was that Riot’s stranglehold on its own game’s eSports scene could eventually suffocate pros and the scene itself. A game creator, after all, will inevitably have different priorities than a dyed-in-the-wool sports organization – especially compared to the way eSports leagues currently operate. And yet, here we are. LCS season 4 contracts are now in the hands of pros, and they contain some sticky stipulations. The most worrisome among them? The one that forbids all contracted pros from streaming DOTA 2, Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Heroes of Newerth, World of Tanks, and many more for the duration of the season.

onGamers originally obtained the document, which has since been confirmed as authentic and accurate in a Reddit post by Riot director of eSports Whalen Rozelle. The full document, which you can view below, is quite lengthy and includes pretty much every major MOBA. More curiously, it’s also dotted with non-MOBA games, anything even vaguely related to gambling, and, er, tobacco products.

Streaming, for the uninitiated, is the practice of using services like Twitch to broadcast gameplay sessions to, well, anyone who’ll tune in, really. In eSports, it’s especially important as a means of allowing pros to directly interact with their fans while also attracting new ones, via games both related and unrelated to their sport of choice. Blizzard’s Hearthstone, for instance, has become an immensely popular compliment to League of Legends, as match times snuggle up perfectly with LoL queues.

Naturally, then, outrage flowed thick, bitter, and sanguine in the immediate aftermath of these restrictions’ confirmation. Riot’s Rozelle, however, broke down the company’s reasoning:

“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.”

“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 suppose that kind of makes sense, but pro gaming isn’t the NFL. It’s a different creature entirely, and blindly plastering a frankly ancient definition of “professionalism” over a still-nascent sporting culture born of an entirely different, hyper-connected era poses all sorts of problems.

First off, Riot’s comparisons to other sports don’t even really pass muster. Restricting MOBA streams? Sure, I guess I can understand that. But blocking games in entirely different genres just because they’re part of a competitor’s library? That reeks of corporate muscle-flexing – of kicking and biting and using any means necessary to be more visible than everyone else. This also means that, while LoL trundles onward and upward, other games’ eSports exposure gets trampled in the process, directly affecting pro gaming’s ability to expand and diversify.

What’s good for LoL is not necessarily what’s good for eSports in general. Yes, this is business. Yes, other sports do this to an extent, but this just seems like overkill at this point.

There’s also the pros themselves to consider. Streaming is a huge part of building up these “personal brands” that Riot is so eager to cite, and dedicating the majority of your time to a single game carves off thick, meaty chunks of your potential audience. Even as one of the biggest eSports out there, LoL isn’t a guaranteed millionaire-maker, and some players need streaming money to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, the pro limelight doesn’t flicker into a slow sunset so much as it bursts. Pro LoL careers span a few years, not decades. Players need every tool they can get to build personal brands and cushion themselves for the future, or else Riot needs to double down on efforts to provide them with benefits and some form of alternate career path. I understand that players are on Riot’s payroll during the season, but Riot needs to consider how these sorts of sacrifices could hurt its players further down the line.

So long as Riot is the only company to adopt this one-man show mentality, it’s likely to give otherwise talented, exciting young pros pause. Why practice until your eyelids slam shut and put out tiny “out of order” signs for a hyper-restrictive game when others offer more freedom and a chance at future viability?

This also raises questions about the role of streaming in games in general. I mean, it’s a truly new means of interacting with games and their fans – a largely unprecedented wrinkle born of Internet culture and the increasing ease with which we can broadcast, well, anything. So how do we categorize it? Is it akin to a friendly game of [insert ballsport here] with friends – a casual, ho-hum day in the park made public – or is it a full-blown business enterprise mired in incomprehensible legalese and labyrinths of red tape?

The fact of the matter is, people treat it both ways, and many end up somewhere in the middle of those two ends of the spectrum. But in the end, there is money in streaming. Where there’s money, there will naturally be people and businesses looking to control and own it. Streaming is still in its Wild West phase right now. Pretty much anyone can do it as a for-fun side project, and no one bats an eyelash. I very much doubt, however, that it will stay that way. Riot has set a precedent here. Even if it ultimately steps back and decides to trade its iron-fisted grip for a gentle hug with arms made of rainbows, more companies – publishers, developers, eSports entities, whatever –  will attempt to restrict or otherwise control streaming. It’s bound to happen.

For now, though, the ball is in Riot’s Staples-Center-spanning court. It can clamp down and do what it (I would argue erroneously) thinks is best for its own game in the short term, or it can reconsider. Personally, I’m pleading for the latter. There’s more to this equation than LoL and its attempt to dominate the multi-laned beast that is legitimacy. Riot’s own pros and the wider eSports scene matter too, and reverberations from this decision stand to have seismic effects on both. If Riot fails to acknowledge that, then nobody comes out of this battle looking like a winner.

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135 Comments »

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  1. Brosepholis says:

    LCS teams are paid contractors of Riot Games. Riot can draw up the contract however they like; nobody is being forced to sign. They could ban streaming altogether if they liked, and restrict players to official games only. It worked for KeSPA, which produced by far the best e-sports ever seen in the peak years of Brood War.

    Although it seems to be mostly the Dota 2 crowd getting worked up about this, as if it shows Riot is intimidated by Valve, it’s actually more about people playing Hearthstone in the breaks between games. Perhaps a better way to deal with this problem on Riot’s end would be to do something about the unholy queue times for high level ranked games.

    • Ringwraith says:

      You can’t do anything about queue times except get more people playing.
      The reason high-skill bands exist because their members are few in number, as they are meant to be the best at it.
      It’s not something you can ‘fix’ when you need ten people for a game which is typically at least 30 minutes, not including pre-match setup time.

    • Nevard says:

      The fact that they could write unholy blood sigils into their contract and demand the sacrifice of three virgin lambs per stream doesn’t preclude games journalism websites telling us how bad of an idea that is.

    • Deadend says:

      That “it’s legal” argument is completely missing the point of the article, which never talked about “can Riot demand this?”
      Yes, Riot can demand it, but they shouldn’t because it’s evil and mean and shitty.

      • aardvarked says:

        Specifically: what part of this is evil?

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          Wisq says:

          The part where they try to make their players completely dependent on them by eliminating all their other options.

          • aardvarked says:

            Excluding merchandise, advertisement/streaming revenue and sponsorship from other companies.

        • solidsquid says:

          They’re using their position as a market leader to pressure employees into signing an updated contract which is materially detrimental to them (since it’s likely the players get money from streams and they’ll get less people watching if all they’re doing is waiting for the game to start). Much like Walmart’s union busting methods, it could be considered fairly unethical

          • aardvarked says:

            How is restricting them to streaming the most popular game in the world (during the season) going to be materially detrimental?

            They’re absolutely allowed to play whatever game they please while they’re in long queues, as long as it’s not in that list of games that Riot thinks are competititors. That leaves literally tens of thousands of games for them to fill the airtime with.

          • Nevard says:

            Whether there are alternatives is irrelevant, they are still sticking their noses in where they don’t belong.

          • aardvarked says:

            Given they’re paying all of those people to act as representatives of their product then yes, it is their business.

          • jaguar skills says:

            If I know MOBA players (and I don’t want to), I’d be surprised if a LOL fan wanted to watch a DOTA game whilst waiting for a LOL match to start. Isn’t half of either game slagging off the other?

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            darkChozo says:

            It’s materially detrimental because LoL streamers depend on other games to fill the downtime caused by high-MMR queue times. This limits the pool of games that they can play during that time. It’s an additional restriction that makes their jobs harder.

            It’s certainly not a kiss of death for streamers or anything, but it feels excessive because these players are streaming on their own time (ie. Riot doesn’t require them to stream and doesn’t receive any of the stream revenue), and because the list of games is so wide-ranging. Ruling out DOTA and Starcraft might pass muster, but random defunct games and the entire Blizzard catalog seems a bit much.

            And the reason this seems ethically dubious is that Riot’s effectively got a monopoly on the “get paid to be really good at League of Legends” market. While this is probably not a big enough issue to keep players from signing, it feels like an abuse of power.

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            jrodman says:

            It’s not their business.

            Pro baseball players don’t have contracts saying that they can’t be caught playing soccer on camera.

          • Asurmen says:

            Bad example jrodman. Riot even said they can do whatever they want when not streaming, which is the equivalent of your baseball idea. This is more like during the middle of an actual baseball game, where he is performing the duties of his employment as per his contract, he starts playing football and endorsing other games, and by extension their merchandise and associated products which I think most people will agree isn’t right to do.

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            Malibu Stacey says:

            Bad example jrodman.

            How is that a bad example exactly? Are these people supposed to be playing League of Legends 24 hours a day 7 days a week for the entire season? Does Riot pay them for every waking hour of their time? I seriously doubt either of those are true.
            This contract specifically prohibits the players from streaming those games at all & if you don’t think that’s a problem you have no idea how this scene works.

          • Asurmen says:

            No, but I never said that. What they are supposed to be doing is while using their official stream accounts, is playing LoL. That is what they’re paid to do. That’s why it’s a bad example, because when the baseball player is playing football they’re not being paid to play baseball so it doesn’t matter. It only matters if he’s in a situation where he’s being paid to play baseball but playing a whole different sport, or playing baseball while wearing another team’s colours/sponsors/merchandise. The former is not equivalent to Riot’s situation, the latter is.

  2. Shieldmaiden says:

    I can understand restricting streams of other games in the same genre, but anything else seems like overkill. It’s a bit like saying that a football player can’t take part in a charity golf tournament.

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      Lambchops says:

      I was going to post exactly the same example.

      Kindly return my wonderful brainwaves, good sir!

      • Shieldmaiden says:

        That would be “madam” thank you very much! I think I’m going to have to change my nickname to Girly McGirlface, apparently Shieldmaiden is too ambiguous. :p

        It’s the first thing that popped into my mind when I tried to think of professional athletes publicly playing other sports. Were you thinking along the same lines?

        • Mokinokaro says:

          Yes, it’s basically an overzealous non-compete clause. They don’t want to be paying someone to advertise their competition, which is completely understandable.

          Some of their restricted game choices are a bit odd, but the Blizzard games make perfect sense to ban. Blizzard is building a MOBA of their own which means they are a competitior to Riot.

          • honuk says:

            They aren’t paying them to advertise the competition, because the players aren’t on the clock 24 hours a day. Riot pays them to be in the LCS (and tosses them aside the second they fall out), not to live. Streaming pays these players in advertising dollars and is something the teams encourage as a way to promote the team and player brands, not Riot’s brand. Riot employs LCS players, it doesn’t own them.

    • aardvarked says:

      Most of those games are sort of vaguely in the same kind of genre though. Obviously Hearthstone is a bit of a weird one to include but I’m assuming that’s just because it’s Blizzard. A gateway drug, if you will.

  3. Serenegoose says:

    No, it doesn’t make a kind of sense, and I do hope RPS reconsiders that statement. A scummy business practice spreading its contamination far and wide, where ‘sponsors’ take precedence over individuals, is not tolerable wherever it’s found. If a stand isn’t taken now, you’re consenting to another reduction of the tapestry of human experience and endeavour being reduced to a cash pump for corporations. I’ll say it plainly.

    Absolutely nothing about this is good for you, or me, or humanity in general. Nothing.

    Before I’m accused of hyperbole. Will the world end? No, of course not. But it’s the thin end of the wedge. Slippery slope isn’t a fallacy when it actually happens. The world doesn’t have to be ending to call something full of shit and another example of how we let corporate greed run roughshod over us without batting an eyelid.

    • ravencheek says:

      Agree whole heartedly.

    • solidsquid says:

      It makes sense from a business point of view, Riot don’t want their employees promoting competing games on their streams because it could affect their position in the market. That doesn’t mean it’s *ethical*, just that there is a degree of logic to it.

      I think the point Nathan was getting at though was that, while their is a fairly straight forward business sense to not playing competing games on the streams, banning them from playing games developed by competing companies, *even if the games aren’t in the same genre*, falls into the downright ludicrous

      • Horg says:

        ”It makes sense from a business point of view, Riot don’t want their employees promoting competing games on their streams because it could affect their position in the market.”

        I’d be genuinly surprised if a LoL streamer playing DotA 2, or any other game, had any significant impact on Riots market position. The will not be many gamers who play / follow LoL but somehow remain unaware of the existence of the prohibited games.

        From a business point of view, without any data to work with, you could equally speculate that this is in fact a bad decision. It will negatively impact streamers by forcing them to either mono-game or not stream. This could cause burnout or a reduction in earnings, both of which could prematurely end a professional career and drive the player (and potentially a large portion of the viewers) to a competing game.

        • Evilpigeon says:

          So, advertising isn’t just about making people aware of products that they don’t know exist. A crucial part of advertising is to remind people about products they already know of that they might be tempted to buy or use. This is the reason companies like Coke still advertise, even though everyone and their dog knows about Coke.

          I doubt anyone watching a LoL stream is likely to be unaware of DotA 2 but there’s a high chance that there are people watching who’ve never tried DotA 2 or people who used to play and switched to LoL. These people might be persuaded to go try DotA 2 based on watching the stream. Frankly it’s very difficult to dedicate enough time to play two MOBA games, if you start playing one, you’re probably going to stop playing the other so much.

          It’s definately worse for the streamers though, something like Hearthstone went really well with League queue times and both are really popular so it’s a great way to maximise the level of viewer interest.

      • Nevard says:

        What about the games on that list that aren’t mobas

        • Mokinokaro says:

          Blizzard’s games make perfect sense since they’re building a MOBA with a lot of the same characters. WoW and Hearthstone are, in a sense, advertising for Heart of the Storm.

  4. C0llic says:

    When people flood comment threads about LoL coverage, this is one of the reasons why. They really are the ‘bad guys’ of free to play MOBAs and esports, and have been for some time. Not only do they do this, but they’ve also been forcing exclusivity agreements on events in much the same way for a long time.

    Not only do I feel DOTA 2 is the better game, these kind of practices are why I really want to see sites like this giving them more coverage. Valve deserves it by having a much more laudable approach to monetising its game, and more importantly, it doesn’t indulge in business practices like this.

    • RedNick says:

      Compare the worst things the two companies have done with their respective games:
      Valve/Dota 2: Not preparing Diretide for this year, a couple of dodgy cosmetic sets.
      Riot/LoL: This, wiping the DotA forums (and when restoring, not restoring the hero suggestions), trying to stop gaming groups also having Dota teams, stopping Dota being run at tournaments that are running LoL…

    • Mokinokaro says:

      You do realize Blizzard has tried to push exclusivity contracts before as well to squash competition right? It happened a lot with original Starcraft.

      • C0llic says:

        I don’t see how that changes the point i’m making, or my statements at all. As for Blizzard doing that, I’m not surprised. It doesn’t make the practice any less despicable.

        • aardvarked says:

          Despicable? Really? What sensationalist nonsense, I’d hate to see how worked up you get about an actual injustice.

  5. cyrenic says:

    I’m a big fan of League of Legends but I think these streaming restrictions are pretty crappy. When your game is that popular, do you really need to worry about the competition this much? All of this smacks of insecurity and a desire to be over-controlling.

    • Zyrocz says:

      Dota 2 and Heroes of the Storm are two games they do have to worry about though.

  6. OrangyTang says:

    “The one that forbids all contracted pros from streaming DOTA 2 …, and many more for the duration of the season.”

    Maybe it’s in another bit of the document, but that’s not how I’m reading it:
    “The following companies and/or products are not to be advertised during or adjacent to LoL content during the Term”

    That doesn’t seem to rule out playing/advertising the other games, just don’t do it at the same time as LoL content (ie., no streaming yourself while wearing a WoW t-shirt, or having ad breaks that encorage people to watch a Dota competition). This seems much more reasonable to me?

    • Serenegoose says:

      What’s the compelling reason for them being permitted control over another person, at any time? If I give you money can I stipulate that you can’t wear socks? What if I own your place of work? Is it legitimate to use my position of power to mete out arbitrary demands? Or, perhaps, should I be held to higher standards, not lower?

      • OrangyTang says:

        It’s legitimate if you sign the contract. I don’t disagree that it’s still pretty control-freakery, but it doesn’t seem to be as controlling as the article suggests.

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        drewski says:

        Are you really surprised that an employer might have a dress code?

        If you pay me enough, I’ll happily sign a contract agreeing not to wear socks.

    • Ehlii says:

      Check the update to the story at ongamers. Specifically, “Under Section 3 Rule 4 of the new contract handling ‘Non-League Events and Streaming’, it states that “… the [LCS] Team shall ensure that, during the Term of this Agreement, its Team Members do not publicly stream gameplay of the titles set forth on Exhibit B””.

      It’s not just ‘at the same time or adjacent to’, it’s at any time during the agreement.

      • OrangyTang says:

        Ah, buried deeper in their document then. That does seem more than a tad overly controlling.

        • Mokinokaro says:

          There’s sound business logic behind it though. These players are making money from Riot so why should they be advertising Riot’s competition when “on the dime” (so to speak.)

          Just look at most pro sports players. They can only wear equipment provided by their sponsors and nothing from the competition. This is pretty similar.

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            Malibu Stacey says:

            There’s sound business logic behind it though. These players are making money from Riot so why should they be advertising Riot’s competition when “on the dime” (so to speak.)

            So what about when they aren’t “on the dime”. Riot pays these players to play in the LCS. They don’t pay to feed, clothe & house them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Riot can and will cut these people loose without a moments notice & what these people make isn’t enough to set them up for the rest of their lives like NFL/NBA/MLB players.

            Just look at most pro sports players. They can only wear equipment provided by their sponsors and nothing from the competition. This is pretty similar.

            And what has that to do with this? Sure it applies equally to eSports equipment sponsors. Like if Razer sponsor you, don’t be seen playing with a Logitech mouse or whatever but how does it relate to the fact that you’re unable to be seen playing certain (competing) games? To fix your flawed analogy, it would be like an NFL or NBA star being told he can’t play Baseball or Soccer with his kids in the park or on holiday.

  7. ahac says:

    >> you probably wouldn’t see an NFL player promoting Arena Football or a Nike-sponsored player wearing Reebok on camera.

    But you will see athletes try other sports… you’ll see basketball players play golf, skiers play tennis, etc…

    • celticfang says:

      Tom Brady did one time and he got told to cover it up, the next time he wore that shirt it had team logo tape across the offending logo. Which made the shirt look a lot better.

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      drewski says:

      For a while the NFL wouldn’t let you wear a labeled helmet unless it was their sponsor’s.

  8. frightlever says:

    Are chess players athletes? You move pieces against the clock. Hmm. I welcome this new broadening of the term ‘athlete’, and also welcome into its downy embrace, golfers, scrabble players and disco dancers. The jocks have lost, because now we are ALL jocks.

    Apparently.

    • celticfang says:

      Donovan McNabb (ex-NFL player) called out a 6 time motor racing champion as not an athlete. That sport responded pretty much as one criticizing McNabb (who let’s be fair never accomplished THAT much in his NFL career)

      That being said let’s stick with the NFL. The NFL has rues prohibiting competing equipment brands. Yet twice in the past few years Newton has broken out Superman cleats. Was he and the Panthers kicked out of the NFL?

      No. He got fined. Same with Lance Briggs and his red, white and blue gloves on 9/11/11, being fined by the NFL for that yet getting public support.

      So why does Riot think they can kick a team out for, say, a player leaving up a WoT stream name on Twitch or wherever because they are too tired to change it after practices?

      To analogize this to real sports, let’s say that Wayne Rooney was snapped wearing a Man City shirt in the street, he and Man United got kicked out of football. There’d be a huge uproar if that happened.

      • Koozer says:

        Surely the answer is simple: Riot don’t see professional LoLers as important as ‘real’ athletes.

        • Baines says:

          I’m pretty sure Riot doesn’t believe their “professional gamers” are “athletes.” The reason Riot pushed to get professional gamers classified as athletes was just to get their gamers access to athlete visas.

          In Riot’s eyes, most likely pro gamers are “athletes” only when being an “athlete” gives some benefit to Riot.

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        drewski says:

        The NFL has a collective bargaining agreement which specifies how the league can punish players who commit uniform violations.

        Maybe LoL players should unionize.

        Your Rooney example doesn’t work, though, given Rooney is not employed by and has no direct contractual relationship with the Premier League.

        • celticfang says:

          True but it was the first example that came to mind and I ran with it, can you suggest a better analogy that more people may get?

          A gamer’s union does sound like something that needs to happen, but something tells me Riot would move to block any unions. Also, unionized gamers sound pretty scary, then again so do unionized hockey players or football players.

          • aardvarked says:

            It’s the exact same thing as Nike paying Messi to wear their boots and then he decides to turn up in Adidas one week. He would be fined pretty heavily initially and then potentially dropped if he didn’t apologise and come up with a good excuse.

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            DrollRemark says:

            Hahaha no he wouldn’t.

            He might lose some sponsorship money (entirely separate), but Barcelona would have absolutely no grounds to fine him, and they definitely wouldn’t stop picking him because of it.

          • aardvarked says:

            Uh yeah, I was talking about Nike, not Barcelona.

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            Malibu Stacey says:

            True but it was the first example that came to mind and I ran with it, can you suggest a better analogy that more people may get?

            I guess if Wayne Rooney were seen at a game at Mile High wearing a Denver Broncos shirt it might be similar since the Glazer family own both Man Utd and Tampa Bay Buccaneers?

    • solidsquid says:

      Technically chess used to be an olympic event, so yes, you could consider chess players athletes

    • Hillbert says:

      Jocky Wilson, what an athlete…

  9. Ultra Superior says:

    E-Sports Wee-Sports. I am amazed there’s so many people willing to passively suffer while watching this.

  10. Pedanticjase says:

    If the players don’t like it they don’t need to compete. If you don’t like how a business operates you shouldn’t grumble and go along with it.

    Otherwise suck it up.

    • Serenegoose says:

      Because obviously people have so many other options in life. That’s why there’s no unemployment. Because of all the spare jobs people can go to if they find the one they’re in disagreeable.

      I’ve got a better idea. Maybe we don’t let the people who own all the money make the rules that allow them to micromanage everyone else? Crazy, I know. It’s just I had this weird dream once where we were in the 21st century and feudalism was over.

      • aardvarked says:

        Entitlement at its finest. These people are being prevented from promoting competitor’s games and merchandise while they’re being paid to be a representative of Riot. They’re also not allowed to promote pornography, drugs, firearms or gambling. That is a very standard contract for anyone in the public eye, anyone who thinks that is some fascist regime is an utter idiot.

        When’s the last time you saw Steve Ballmer walking around with an iphone?

        • Serenegoose says:

          Yes, it’s entitled for me. As someone who’s never watched a game of league in my life, and who doesn’t work for them in any capacity, to say that the situation in society where employers can make arbitrary demands of their employees or be sacked is a bad situation for humanity as a whole. It’s definitely NOT entitled of the rich to have their cake and eat it. Those poor, poor millionaires. How would they sleep at night, knowing one of their employees occasionally streamed another game! What brazen entitlement!

          • aardvarked says:

            Asking people you’ve paid specifically to promote your brand from promoting others is far from ‘arbitrary’. Stop getting your panties in a twist over a sensationalist headline and a perfectly reasonable contractual agreement.

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            jrodman says:

            If you don’t have anything relevant to say, just call the other person names!

        • Emeraude says:

          These people are people prevented from promoting competitor’s games and merchandise while they’re being paid to be a representative of Riot.

          Why is that acceptable though ? Not open for discussion ? You seem to think that it goes without saying, which is weird enough for me. If anything, the major players should all go on strike until they’ve struck a deal that is less restrictive and more favorable to them.

          Crazy, I know. It’s just I had this weird dream once where we were in the 21st century and feudalism was over.

          That’s capitalism in action. Capital aggregates, and a minority gets the means to dictate the conditions of access to wealth of the majority (my economists friend may be reading this; please don’t shoot me).

          • aardvarked says:

            And I quote: “I didn’t read the contract.” If you did you would see absolutely nothing worthy of any reasonable person being even moderately put out by it.

          • Emeraude says:

            Then call me unreasonable I guess, but I do take issue with this: These people are people prevented from promoting competitor’s games and merchandise while they’re being paid to be a representative of Riot..

            Again: you seem to think it goes without saying. I don’t.

          • aardvarked says:

            Why would you want to pay someone a significant salary specifically to promote your brand and then be totally fine with them promoting other rival companies at the same time? You do realise this doesn’t apply to anyone who wishes to stream the game and is only to a select group of players don’t you? The equivalent here is Wayne Rooney taking a break from playing for Manchester United for a weekend and playing for Liverpool instead.

            They’re not preventing them from getting sponsorships and merchandising deals with other companies, they just don’t want them to advertise games from companies they believe they’re in direct competition with.

            The part about advertising guns, gambling, drugs or pornography is completely standard practice and you’d have to be batshit insane to question that part, surely?

          • hotmaildidntwork says:

            A respectable company competes by being better than its competition, not by attempting to force contractual partners into pretending that large, arbitrarily selected portions of the world do not exist in the hope that it can eventually strangle the rest of the industry to death. This idiocy is healthy and wise for no one, and I’m getting the distinct impression that the only way to feel otherwise involves some form of Stockholm Syndrome.

          • Milos says:

            You have to have at least one apologist no matter how repugnant the issue, otherwise it wouldn’t feel like the internet.

        • Geebs says:

          I agree, if you actually read the contract the terms are much more reasonable than they are made out to be, and the legalese is surprisingly clear although it’s odd that explosives, alcohol and bladed weapons are apparently kosher….

          I guess the reason the Riot guy gave a vague answer and ran away was to get out of the blast radius of the Nathan Grayson MOBA Explosion :p

          • Emeraude says:

            I didn’t read the contract. I was just being amazed at the idea that its OK for companies to exert their bargaining power and dictate what is acceptable, but not so for contractors.

          • Premium User Badge

            drewski says:

            Well, it’s fine for contractors too, but clearly Riot have a much stronger bargaining position.

    • Kitsunin says:

      The idea that you shouldn’t complain at all about something you are participating in is ridiculous. It only works in a world where there is one option which suits your every taste, something that is only possible in an impossible world where there are literally infinite options.

      If something isn’t perfect, then you should complain your bloody heart out if you want it changed and there isn’t a viable alternative.

      • Pedanticjase says:

        No you shouldn’t participate by accepting their terms and taking their money you are legitimising their policy.

        If the big contenders dropped out of this tournament they might consider changing their rules.

        Their are other games these people could be playing, so there are viable alternatives. This is the systemic problem with most things these days everyone wants to have a whine about things but it comes to making a tough decision people will just roll with whatever is easiest for them rather than doing what they think is right.

        • zal says:

          He’s hit the nail on the head, imagine if every top player all agreed before hand to derail their championships.
          just refuse to do play or do anything aside from chant “this is for you, the players, for your gaming freedom!” over and over. If riot pulls them and throws in a bunch of no names to play. POOF theres goes their branding… and they probably get a pile of internet backlash. If they don’t pull them… then they get the most boring championship ever and some pissed sponsors. If they capitulate, then suddenly they send the message of “hey, do this any time you don’t like what we’re doing”.

          If they actually faced an organized labor standoff, it’d be a trainwreck for them, just about any way it resolved.

          But, Riot know that’s not going to happen, and so do we.
          You’re looking at a bunch of teenagers hot on competition and cold on maturity. Even if they even managed to “agree” to a “strike”, you KNOW the “strike” would either be ratted by multiple players prior to the occurance, or broken outright like a bunch of greedy little children fighting over cookies when the time finally came. Its extra delicious because they really are harder to replace with scabs than most workers, so they’d have an easier time of it (unlike the fast food workers striking in the US today… good luck with that).

          • Kitsunin says:

            I never said anything about a strike not being a good idea. I said that there’s nothing wrong with complaining even while you still think it’s worth participating in something. Sure you kind of suck for not doing more, but this attitude of “go full hog or STFU” just prevents anything from happening when someone won’t up and quit rather than at least the small difference that a voice might make. You yourself said why a strike wouldn’t work, because we’re talking about stupid teenagers (largely) and when striking is a prisoner’s dilemma where you rely on people other than yourself striking too in order to get anything but screwed over, leaving doesn’t do anything for you except cause you to have left. If you’ve been playing LoL seriously you can’t just swap over to Starcraft or DotA, it doesn’t work like that!

            This attitude that you should just shut up if you’re trying to advocate something is just stupid. And no, I’m not just referring to this situation, it’s the same with all sorts of advocacy, you have the people who want to say something and the people who are like “Well we don’t think what you’re saying is wrong, technically, but still you should shut up because blah blah.”

    • Horg says:

      It’s comments like this that get you reflexively blocked around these parts……

    • solidsquid says:

      Alternatively they could make some noise about potentially abusive practices and try to put public pressure on their employer to remove that clause from the contract before they signed. Just because they’re the potential employee, doesn’t mean they can’t negotiate and otherwise make amendments to the contract they’re going to sign. As long as Riot agrees to the end result then that’s it, they get what they wanted

  11. BlitzThose says:

    yet another reason to hate League of Bell Ends

    • Mokinokaro says:

      A reason to hate eSports in general. Stuff like this has been common in the pro Starcraft circuit for years.

  12. aardvarked says:

    Riot doesn’t really need to do anything. If you don’t like being paid a salary to be contracted to their company under their rules and obligations then don’t do it, it’s pretty simple. None of those stipulations are anything worthy of the nerd-outrage it has caused.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      If you don’t like being paid a salary to be contracted to their company under their rules and obligations then don’t do it, it’s pretty simple.

      Which if you want to compete in their tournaments, you have to be. Sounds fair I guess if you’re still living in medieval europe.

  13. thecommoncold says:

    So long as Riot is the only company to adopt this one-man show mentality, it’s likely to give otherwise talented, exciting young pros pause. Why practice until your eyelids slam shut and put out tiny “out of order” signs for a hyper-restrictive game when others offer more freedom and a chance at future viability?

    This sounds like Riot signing their own pro-gaming death warrant. Someone who was pro-LoL and involved in casting/playing other eSports should just tell Riot where they can shove that contract and then go play any other eSport where the game’s creators actually respect and encourage their players.

    Hopefully this is just a Riot thing and it doesn’t catch on across the whole industry…

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      For that to work, the player would need to be bigger than the game. Is that remotely realistic? Are there great swathes of the LoL audience who care more about players – or even teams – than they do about LoL? I don’t get that impression.

      • thecommoncold says:

        I’m not sure it’s so simple. I don’t watch DotA 2 unless it’s the World Champ matches because I expect to see top-tier play. If they couldn’t retain top-tier players due to crap contracts, then it’s difficult to say if the game would be as successful as a spectator sport.

        I’m ignoring MOBA factionalism here at my own risk, though, so I’m willing to admit my analysis might be bunk.

  14. jealouspirate says:

    This makes perfect sense to me. Exclusive deals in representation happen all the time, not just in sports. It’s pretty common for musicians to only play certain brands of instruments in public for a certain period of time as part of a contract.

    These people are paid by Riot to stream LoL and represent the game, and then that same player streams content from LoL’s direct competitors. Why would Riot want to fund advertisements for their competition?

    • Serenegoose says:

      Riot isn’t a person. Why should we care what’s good for them? Musicians are. Gamers are. Athletes are. These are the people we should be watching out for. Not the other way around.

      • thecommoncold says:

        Ugg, really? The tired “corporations aren’t people” argument? So their (admittedly idiotic) contract wasn’t written by a person, OK’d by the person in charge, and put into their eSport rules by a person?

        Riot is simply a group of (surprise!) people with a common joint interest in their game. And if the people behind the company decide to do this, yeah we can think it’s dumb, but they have a right to do it and to look out for their group’s interests just like the gamers you mention.

      • jealouspirate says:

        Well, if you make a living off streaming LoL then you should care quite a bit about what is good for Riot.

        • Serenegoose says:

          I would be utterly gobsmacked if this had the slightest impact on anybody working at riot whatsoever. It’s not going to affect them. Let’s be real here. It’s an excuse to control the people that work for them. The idea that one of their gamers could wear a fucking… warcraft shirt and suddenly Riot’s boarding up the doors because the fanbase ran off to play WoW is laughable. There’s no actual reason for them to need to do this. They just want control.

          • jealouspirate says:

            Uh, no, the real reason is that they don’t want the people they pay to represent LoL to advertise direct competition while on the job. It’s a simple business decision. You won’t see staff at the Apple store wearing Android t-shirts.

            But nevermind, you seem deadset on the narrative of Riot being a gigantic and obviously evil corporation laughing as they swim in pools of money and control the worthless peasants down below.

          • thecommoncold says:

            Probably true, but the players are under no obligation to entertain Riot’s contract. I’m sure most of the pro-LoL players would be plenty good at DotA 2. Why not just play that?

            The problem with your arguments is that you are casting these gamers as powerless in the situation, but that’s not true – they are the ones with the exceptional skills that these eSports demand, and there’s always a competing game, so the gamers can leverage that to play/contract for a game company that will compete for their skills by offering them a fair deal. A eSport with no players is nothing.

          • Serenegoose says:

            I don’t think they’re evil. I think they have no conscience whatsoever, as no group of people in all of recorded history has ever possessed. They’re massive, cautious, conservative organisations that exist only to continue existing, overreact to any perceived threat to their continued existence and thus they need to be strictly controlled to ensure that they don’t wield the phenomenal amount of social power given to them inappropriately. I don’t see staff at the apple store wearing android t-shirts. But I don’t see that as necessary either. I’d be complaining about it too if it was the topic at hand. I think human freedom is considerably more important than whether apple is remotely inconvenienced by anything ever, and i feel the same for riot.

          • aardvarked says:

            Why do you think companies pay people to promote their products if it has absolutely no affect on their brand awareness or revenues? People do not have an infinite amount of time and money to spend on every game under the sun, the logic is pretty obvious here.

          • Serenegoose says:

            Excluding the person wearing it, how many people do you think would lose their job at riot because a pro-player wore a hearthstone t-shirt? Harm should be demonstrated before they get to describe how a player ought to dress at any time. Harm should be measured in tangible human values. If it’s a significant issue, it ought to be remarkably easy to prove.

          • Premium User Badge

            darkChozo says:

            A note: Riot doesn’t employ these people to stream LoL. They (kinda sorta legal something) employ them as a part of participating in the LCS. Riot doesn’t get any money from stream ad revenue and there’s no requirement that LCS players stream at all.

            Now, obviously being a pro LoL player and being a popular LoL streamer are not exactly divergent career paths, but the reason this seems like an overreach is that it’s restricting players while they’re “not on the job”, so to speak. It’s like McDonalds making it a firable offense for their employees to enter a Burger King (or, in the case of Hearthstone, a coffee shop) while wearing a McD logo shirt or something.

            EDIT: And it’s worth noting that this isn’t a cut-and-dry issue. Codes of conduct for employees are common, particularly for those in the public eye, and I think a lot more people would be okay with it if the pros just couldn’t stream actual competitors like DOTA and Starcraft.

        • Emeraude says:

          But only so much as that impact on Riot impact *you*. Whatever impacts Riot and does you no bad shouldn’t concern you now, should it ?

    • solidsquid says:

      While you’re right that musicians sign contracts that say they’ll only play certain instruments at public events, this is more like asking them to only play certain types of music at public events. The instruments analogy would be more like Logitech getting an exclusivity deal for the mouse, keyboard and headset they use

  15. SandmanXC says:

    How will this impact the Fat Princess competitive scene? More information at 5.

    • Kiytan says:

      Well I’m here in the Fat princess competitors lounge, hoping I can quickly get an insiders opinions, however so far I haven’t been able to find anyone…at all…it’s just empty, there’s no one. Back to you in the studio, sandmanXC.

  16. Emeraude says:

    The equivalent here is Wayne Rooney taking a break from playing for Manchester United for a weekend and playing for Liverpool instead.

    And ? Why would that be unacceptable ? Apart from you being used to things being the way they are ?

    All it tells me is that the company has more bargaining power than those it employs. Especially given the company gets to decide what is and isn’t competition.

    • aardvarked says:

      Are you serious?

      • Emeraude says:

        Why wouldn’t I be ?

        Again, all this tells me us that Manchester United has the money and can dictate the working conditions of its employees. Or more exactly that the collective bargaining power of all players isn’t enough that it can be spent on letting players dictate their working conditions on that point.

        (That being said, I do think your comparison is flawed. This is more a case of the FIFA forbidding a player to go play for the NFL also).

        • aardvarked says:

          What it should tell you is that a company employs someone for their own interests, not the interests of their direct rivals. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to offer him the salary because he wouldn’t be generating the same amount of income. I thought using such a clear-cut example would get my point across but apparently not.

          It’s not a flawed comparison. Riot isn’t stopping the players from streaming FPS games, only those which it sees as operating within the same genre, though admittedly that genre does appear to be fairly vague. If there was an international gaming association, they would be the FIFA in this example.

          • Emeraude says:

            What it should tell you is that a company employs someone for their own interests, not the interests of their direct rivals.

            a) What if both companies are paying the athlete ? Again, all it tells is that athletes can’t dictate that perfectly valid working situation in other fields, or that that they feel they’ve been compensated enough for letting the point fly. Not that it is a necessity.
            b) Why is it acceptable for the company to dictate what an employee does on its own free time ?
            c) I do think your comparison is flawed because here the company has both the powers and prerogatives of a Federation AND of a club. As such the one position with more power should be the one used to asses the situation and obligations of the company.

          • Ich Will says:

            The real problem is that all the teams are “owned” by Riot. If the teams themselves were independent employers of the athletes and Riot had a concorde agreement dictating the precise same terms, there would not be a problem here, because the teams would have independent power to challenge and adapt the agreement to their liking.

            Could you imagine if every premiereship foot to ball team were owned by Fifa? What a good job they have independent power to challenge fifas daftness.

    • vexytube says:

      Have you ever worked a real job? I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to understand what Riot are doing…

      • Emeraude says:

        Not only I do, I work for several competing companies at the same time.

        Go figure.

      • zal says:

        I can understand non-compete clauses in some industries where you’re staring at a conflict of interest or similar (IE you’re going to end up respresenting to parties in a dispute and playing for both sides, or something like that)
        but really past that… wheres the detriment to society in a tennis player also playing hockey… how would that harm society. It sounds to me like that person would be awesomely productive, if they can actually do it. if we could get every athlete to do that we could double the entertainment produced per athlete, which sounds like a pretty good deal.

        Do the individual companies suffer a dilution of their “brand”? yes they do.
        Is brand something a company should be entitled to over:
        A) the benefit of society, and economic efficiency
        B) the freedom of the individual?
        Most people tend to rate both of those quite highly… I’m not sure where brand fits in, probably along side religious law or thereabouts on the list of things people can’t wait to have more strictly imposed on them.

        If you ask me It sounds like a win for those that discovered they could legally engineer these clauses and no one would stop them., and no one else. But, hey, it’s easy to fix… call your representatives and tell them you feel E-sports contracts are too restrictive!! I’m sure that’ll have the desired effect.

  17. thecommoncold says:

    A thought I haven’t seen brought up yet: There is a fundamental difference between these particular eSports and “regular” sports, which is ownership. No one “owns” football, baseball, cricket, etc. But Riot owns LoL and Valve owns DotA 2, which means that in order to play competitively, you need to play by their rules.

    Independent associations formed to start a new pro league (i.e., a for-profit league where players are paid) of an eSport could be sued into oblivion as an attempt to profit off the work of another owner, bringing the legal hammer down on anyone who wanted to offer an alternative means to play. With “regular” sports, Arena football could coexist with the NFL, giving the fans and players the choice to pick their preferred league. eSports offer no such possibility, and I wonder if that poses a long-term existential threat to eSports as a whole, or if it just means we’ll be playing different games forever, with nothing quite as enduring as football or baseball.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      I think the transient nature of gaming is the inevitable thing that will doom LoL – people will still be kicking balls around in 30 years from now, but we won’t be playing the same games.

      • thecommoncold says:

        I agree that all games will always be transient, but I get the feeling like the eSport lifecycle is just much shorter than something like football, foot-to-ball or baseball, partially because incremental changes aren’t possible without either (a) the consent of the game owner, or (b) making an entirely new game. Maybe that just means that the eSport cycles just like traditional sports, but in fast-forward.

        [Edit] – Actually, as a response to another of your posts above about Riot’s bargaining position because I think it supports my point: Riot’s ownership of LoL gives them that bargaining position. Play pro-LoL their way or play some other game. The ownership limits the ability of the sport to expand through independent leagues or channels, so the only alternative becomes playing something else when LoL gets stale, leading to an earlier retirement of the game.

        • Emeraude says:

          Agreed with the Edit, that’s partly what I was getting at with the “being both the club and the Federation” bit up-thread.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      But Riot owns LoL and Valve owns DotA 2, which means that in order to play competitively, you need to play by their rules.

      Actually VALVe & Dota 2 don’t work in anything even resembling the way Riot/LoL do in this.
      VALVe create the game & they run the biggest competition at present but they invite players to play at it, it only lasts a week or 2 & players turn up to play for the prize money, there’s no salary paid by VALVe to any team or player.
      The International is only one of dozens of major tournaments in a year. Sure it has the biggest prize pool and thus the most exposure & prestige but there’s nothing to stop anyone else in the world running a tournament with higher potential earnings & they wouldn’t even need VALVe’s permission to do so.

  18. Premium User Badge

    drewski says:

    Pretty dickish. Fair enough not wanting your contracted players promoting competitors, but unrelated games is unnecessarily controlling.

    But I don’t think it’ll stop pro players signing up – gotta make that paper.

    • vexytube says:

      Go check how the real world works. If you sign up with one company/brand they will not want you promoting other competitors.

      Simple logic, not dick moves

      • Emeraude says:

        And in the real when you’re not satisfied with what you consider is an abusive contract you can go on strike, or to court. Or use any legal way in your power to hurt back the company which you think has overstepped its bound till a mutually satisfying agreement is reached.

        I know, it’s difficult to understand. But I do think one so strikingly aware of the realities of the world such as yourself should get the hang of it.

  19. Smuggins says:

    Lol, guess Riot is getting pretty worried about people graduating to Dota 2.

  20. huldu says:

    Queue time and the amount of people playing doesn’t really matter. Even if you have a ton of people, you’ll end up with similar queue time. It might look better at very low tiers where the casuals usually end up. At higher tiers, queue time could be even worse. It takes skills to play LoL and only the elite end up at the top, there isn’t any room for scrubs and noobs. Which is how it should be. Adding more noobs to the game does nothing at all. I probably wouldn’t even be exaggerating if I said well over 95% of the people playing LoL are scrubs, noobs or whatever you want to call them.

  21. vexytube says:

    I don’t even this article…

  22. limbo12 says:

    Screw sports and double screw esports.

    And triple screw LoL.

  23. DatonKallandor says:

    “The one that forbids all contracted pros from streaming DOTA 2, Hearthstone, World of Warcraft, StarCraft, Heroes of Newerth, World of Tanks, and many more for the duration of the season.”

    How about doing your fucking job REPORTER and read the contract. It doesn’t say they can’t stream those things all year. It says they can’t advertise them or stream them adjacent to League of Legends. That means they can’t stream those things DURING a LoL stream, not they can’t stream them at all.

    This kind of misreporting is worse than anything Riot is doing.

    • Premium User Badge

      darkChozo says:

      Repeating second-hand knowledge here, but there’s wording in other places in the contract that extend this to all streaming.

    • ravencheek says:

      As someone above already stated:

      Check the update to the story at ongamers. Specifically, “Under Section 3 Rule 4 of the new contract handling ‘Non-League Events and Streaming’, it states that “… the [LCS] Team shall ensure that, during the Term of this Agreement, its Team Members do not publicly stream gameplay of the titles set forth on Exhibit B””.

  24. CrystalBall says:

    If I’m misunderstanding this someone please correct me. This is a contract for players who are aiming to compete in one of RIOT’s tournaments. What business does RIOT have saying what players can or can’t do with their own streaming account? If RIOT was paying for a players streaming channel this would make sense to me but this just seems absurd.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      As far as I’m concerned, they don’t have any business doing that. And yes, it is absurd. They’re basically saying: we own you. Dance, puppet, dance!

  25. Applypoison says:

    The point of business will always be making more money using money, often diluting collective well-being (and creativity innovation) from the equation in the process, until we’re not really sure why we started out in the first place anymore. It’s our way of living but there has to be some sort of moderation at some point.

    You can always keep expanding your studio, and keep investing more money into making more money, but that doesn’t necessary equal better games or more happiness from your audience. So at what point does one stop ? You justify your means by costs you brought upon yourself, and keep that wheel rolling.

    So everytime I see someone come in and start with “It makes sense from business standpoint”, well it makes my stomach churn. Nobody needs “the business standpoint”, what we need is the creativity, e-sport and community standpoint. We’re all aware of how breathing and choking works, and it will keep happening either way. What we need is a little balance.

  26. cfcannon says:

    This contract makes it pretty clear that Riot knows LoL is on the downside of it lifetime. Dota2 is pretty clearly going to pass it and the new HoS could be worse. Stopgap nonsense like this contract will do nothing to change that future. I just feel bad for the streamers that will now earn less because of this useless restriction.

  27. Core says:

    Well if you take their money you should follow their rules. Blizzard too has a similar policy, they forbid Kripparian from wearing a Path of Exile t-shirt when he took part in the Blizzcon hearthstone tournament.

  28. popatheart1982 says:

    Bo Jackson tends to disagree.