I’m a pretty frequent League of Legends player. I was a part of the early beta program for it and I’ve been playing it on and off since its release in 2009. Needless to say, I’ve been around throughout most, if not every, progression in the fan-base, company policy, and somewhat more importantly here, how everything comes together for the championships. For those not in the know, League of Legends is a really competitive team-based game. Knowing how to work with other people in an effective manner is key to winning against the other team, and the championships involve the best of the best facing each other for a prize at the end of it all.
Other games similar to League of Legends includes Smite, Heroes of Newerth, and DOTA 2, but the flagship game by Riot Games sits at the top of them all in regards to hours played, which makes sense. Every other game I’ve tried was much too “flashy” for my tastes and didn’t have too many options to reduce the special effects, while League of Legends can be toned down, most of the time, if you’re so inclined. As a result, I put in anything from an hour up to ten hours a week in the game, and since each match involves at least 3 people who probably play the game regularly…well, it’s easy to see it’s sensationally popular.
The side effect of a company having such a popular game that undergoes consistent updating and additions to content is that the fan base is ever mercurial and people can have some pretty harsh reactions to changes, especially if the changes don’t make sense from the perspective of the consumer. Riot Games has recently faced this issue by switching up how they approach what championship participants are allowed to do, and the backlash was huge.
It was ten days ago that Riot released the new contracts for those who would be a part of the 2014 League Championship Series (LCS). It stated that players in the championships could no longer stream similar video games, and if they breached this they would instantly be disqualified. Because Riot Games is so dependent on the community, developers of League of Legends often go onto Reddit’s League of Legends sub-reddit to interact with players and to explain their decisions. Riot Games did just that with the new contract stipulations and you could say the community did not respond well. But first, let’s look at what the developer said in order to justify the switch up:
“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… 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.”
“What? On stream, they are themselves. You don’t own their streams. You don’t own their personalities. You’re absolutely disgusting. You just want to control everything and it will be your downfall.”
It took a whole three days for Riot Games to reconsider their decision. According to some of the Riot Games staff in the Reddit thread (yes, it was updated via there again!), the contract was not really agreed upon by everyone and the huge backlash from the consumers only solidified that, letting several of the staff members collaborate to get the policy changed. The official statement can be found here, but you can get the main gist of it below.
“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.”
So, crisis averted! For now, at least. We’ll see what happens when things truly pick up, shall we?