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League of Legends developer Riot Games has stirred up controversy with the contracts they sent to League Championship Series players for Season 4. The contracts restrict these players from broadcasting certain games on their livestreams.
The contract, obtained by OnGamers states that players aren't allowed from streaming any games in the StarCraft, Warcraft, Diablo, Hearthstone and World of Warcraft franchises. That list presumably includes Heroes of the Storm, Blizzard's upcoming MOBA featuring a collection of characters from multiple games. Other rival MOBA's like Dota 2, Heroes of Newerth and Smite are also mentioned along with smaller entries in the genre.
Riot's list of restricted games gets strange after that. LoL LCS players can't stream Fat Princess, that PS3 multiplayer action game from 2009. Monday Night Combat, predecessor to Super Monday Night Combat, is likewise forbidden. And don't you dare stream Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes, the free-to-play arena game that shut down in March.
The copy of the contract that OnGamers obtained said that you couldn't broadcast footage of these games during a League of Legends stream. That was annoying enough; it means that LCS players can't, say, broadcast a match of Hearthstone while they're waiting in a queue for their next match of LoL. However, the site confirmed with team representatives that they can't stream the restricted games at all.
Riot, for their part, says that these rules are necessary as League of Legends grows as a sport. Here's what Whalen Rozelle, director of eSports at Riot, said on Reddit
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.
Riot Games has a vested interest in making their eSport seem as clean-cut and family-friendly as possible. I can also understand why they wouldn't want their players streaming footage of rival games. Riot's thinking, "Hey, we pay these guys' salary. They shouldn't be giving free publicity to our competitors' games. If they want to play another game, they can turn off their stream."
That being said, if I were a pro League of Legends player, I'd be pissed. By signing this contract, your livestreams are no longer your own. It's now a broadcast network for LoL and LoL only.
Even if you don't even want to stream other games, the mere principle behind these restrictions has to be annoying. Is streaming ten minutes of Dota 2 before your LoL match really doing damage to Riot? People who love MOBA enough to watch someone else play LoL have probably already tried out Dota 2 and every other game in the genre.
Riot's holding all the cards here, though. If you want to play LoL professionally, you need to play by their rules. If you don't want to sign the contract, there are thousands of players out there who would. Unless there's an organized effort by players to change this or any other policy, Riot's going to continue getting their way.