UPDATE 12/6 8:23 AM PST - S2 Games Marc A DeForest has sent us the following statement:
"We view eSports differently - it is a platform for competition, growth, and the collective celebration of video gaming passion. We do not view it as a leveraging tool for anti-competitive and monopolistic practices. S2 Games will continue to support the eSports idea as a whole, not just our own specific interests in it."
Original Story: Yesterday onGamers reported on leaked documents revealing that professional players competing in Season 4 of Riot Games' League of Legends Championship Series may not stream or advertise twenty-one specific video games franchises. The list included Dota 2, StarCraft 2, Heroes of Newerth, Hearthstone, World of WarCraft, World of Tanks, among others.
Jasper Koning, co-creator of the 2D platformer/MOBA hybrid Awesomenauts told onGamers that they think Riot's streaming restrictions are unsportsmanlike and anti-competitive.
"We are disappointed to see Riot impose restrictions on the spare time of it's LoL Championship Series players", Koning said. "It's understandable Riot as a company wants to protect its interests, but the way they're doing it now is decidedly unsportsmanlike, anti-competitive and it sets a bad precedent."
"It could mean that future professional eSports athletes would have to ally themselves to a single company to be able to compete," Kong continued. "This kind of segmentation goes against the efforts to professionalize the eSports scene as a whole. On top of that, as a developer paying gamers to publicly only play your game actually reduces the validity of their competitive efforts and turns it into a marketing tool."
"Importantly, it also stifles the gamers' ability to entertain an audience, a crucial element to the still-young game streaming scene. Which in itself is crucial to bringing eSports to a broader audience. We ourselves would never dream of paying these gamers to stop publicly enjoying games we love playing ourselves as well, games like League of Legends, but also Hearthstone and Dota 2."
"The competitive scene is a big part of Awesomenauts, the successful Kickstarter for the Starstrom expansion showed that our community wants to see more features that support that, such as replays and spectator mode. We at Ronimo feel that games are there for the player and that developers should listen to what the players want, instead of the other way around."
Hi-Rez Studios (SMITE), Turbine/WB Games (Infinite Crisis), Uber Entertainment (Monday Night Combat), and EA (Dawngate) have each declined to comment. Blizzard Entertainment and Valve Software have not returned requests for comment.
Riot Games Director of Esports Whalen 'RiotMagus' Rozelle confirmed in a Reddit thread that the streaming and advertisement restrictions reported on are true, comparing LCS players to those in traditional sports in regards to representation.
"We say this all the time: we want League of Legends to be a legitimate sport", Rozelle said. "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."
"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."