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UPDATE: Awesomenauts, HoN developer comments on Riot stream and advertising restrictions

Ronimo Games Co-Founder and Awesomenauts creator Jasper Koning says that Riot Games is going in the wrong direction with its new streaming restrictions.

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."

4 Comments
Edited by Davideogame

Riot's well within their right to do this, but it doesn't mean it's a good decision. The people most upset with it seem to be the pro players themselves, since they rely on their steam for revenue and to "build their brand". No viewer wants to watch someone surfing the web while waiting for a League queue, so Hearthstone filled that time gap pretty well. Players are also pretty much forced into this too, since there is virtually no LoL scene outside of the LCS and they don't have any sort of player's association to represent them.

People keep comparing this to real sports(™), but there isn't really a direct parallel there. Pro sports players generally can't play two sports professionally at once, but they don't have to represent something like the "Football" brand. Nike may pay players money to wear Nike shoes exclusively, but it's a third party arrangement and you can bet it's for waaaay more than Riot pays the pros. I also don't think eSports necessarily should aspire to be just like real sports. There's a lot of legal baggage that comes with it, the tv format doesn't really work for eSports, some less than ethical practices, etc.

Also why is Hearthstone a competitor but not CS:GO? The whole list of games is just haphazard and silly.

Edit: A little more on topic, I can see Koning's point, but Riot is a company and is going to act in its own self-interest. This policy looks like it was meant to shut out publicity for their competition from their own players (employees), which could be considered anti-competitive. I feel like that's kind of short-sighted, especially since they rely on their reputation of goodwill towards the community, but they've done things similar this in the past and the average LoL player doesn't seem to care.

Edited by BasedPaulBunyan

good to see a dev's perspective.

fuck pendragon.

Posted by Acti

<3 RIOT & Pendragon

DANGER DANGER! SARCASM LEVEL TO FUCKIN' HIGH!!!

1-800-Merlini

Posted by Sean

Update from Riot:

Hey everyone,

There’s been a ton of discussion around our LCS team contracts, which stipulated active LCS players couldn’t stream a variety of other games.

First, background on why we did this: there’ve been instances of other game studios trying to buy access to League fans by using (or trying to use) LCS teams/players to promote their competing games on stream.

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.

I'll be hanging around to answer questions if you guys have any. Thanks for helping us make a better decision on this.