Riot Games has decided not to relax their streaming requirements for League of Legends professional players. Players will now be allowed to broadcast footage of whatever games they choose during Season 4 of the League Championship Series.
The original contract for Season 4 prevented these players from streaming a long list of other games. If they were waiting thirty minutes for a ranked LoL match, they couldn't alt-tab over to play a game of say, Dota 2. The list of restricted games featured several rival MOBAs along with all of Blizzard's games. The list also included Warhammer Online: Wrath of Heroes, which was hilarious because that game was shut down nine months ago.
I assumed at the time that Riot was simply trying to prevent pro LoL players from giving free advertising to other games. However, Riot was actually responding to a different issue: game studios trying to pay LCS players to stream their games to their viewers.
"The way we chose to deal with this was clearly an overreach," Riot director of eSports Whalen Rozelle said on Reddit. "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."
The fan outcry on Reddit, Twitter and other social media led Riot to debate the policy internally. Many Riot employees who just found out about the contract this week were strongly against the streaming restrictions.
"I was struck at how un-Riot it sounded," QA analyst Heather Talonn Jones said in the same Reddit thread. "We had a huge internal discussion amongst probably hundreds of Rioters, and I sensed a strong, common sentiment: from our perspectives as Rioters and with our belief in Player Experience First, this didn't meet our standards--and was therefore not acceptable."
After a day of internal discussion, Riot decided they would change the policy. Now, teams and players under contract to the LCS can't accept sponsorship from other companies to promote their games. They're free to stream any game they want as long as they adhere to that rule.
I'm really glad that Riot decided to reverse their decision. Otherwise, players would have had no choice but to go along with it. What else could they have done? Abstain from LCS out of protest? They would've been replaced in an instant by one of many other high-skill LoL players. There's no player union that could've forced Riot to revise the policy.
Season 4 of the League Championship Series will begin early next year. The months of competitive play will culminate in a World Championship event in South Korea next fall.
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