The esports community may have just set a new standard for textbook overreaction. That’s really the most impressive feat to have come out of last week’s leak of two pages from Riot’s LCS contracts.
Riot moved to contractually restrict what their players can stream. If we’re playing “Big Deal/Little Deal,” this registers at “No Deal.” Streams are our stadiums, Twitch is our Madison Square Garden, and a notable player putting up a stream to do anything is a significant event that draws thousands of onlookers. Riot wants to protect their investment in these players, a sentiment that should not warrant pitchforks. From their statement announcing they were scuttling the leaked section of the contract:
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.
If this is true – I certainly haven’t seen it independently verified – it would make a great deal of sense. (If not, it certainly backs up my diagnosis of Riot below.) What didn’t make a lot sense, as has been correctly pointed out in far too many places to link them all, is the list of games they decided to blackball; nor did this statement from Rozelle in his initial statement on the matter:
Similarly, you probably wouldn’t see an NFL player promoting Arena Football […]
But a marquee NFL player trying out for and making the reserve squad for an MLS side (this year’s champion, by the way) is clearly completely different, right?
The way we chose to deal with this was clearly an overreach.
It was; I don’t mean to suggest Riot didn’t exhibit a good amount of organizational hubris. But this is not a watershed moment, or a turning point, or a tipping point; it’s not even a slight right at a fork. The scene’s reaction was disproportionate.
The most these contract pages show is Riot showing signs of that acute form of delirium associated with ‘going Hollywood.’ It’s hard to keep your feet on the ground after selling out the Staples Center. Similar to the shift in attitude exhibited by a former commentary partner of mine, who promptly stopped giving any sort of effort after our involvement in an esports-for-tv production taped in California (not even that one, but this one), Riot’s perception of themselves is beginning to outpace their reality.
Cause for concern, and a prompt to keep an eye on things, maybe. Riot is in rather uncharted waters; they’re the first to find success in staging a closed-system league, one that comes closest to mirroring professional sports and also should live to see more than a season and a half of play. They’re going to make some mistakes here and there. But of all the things the scene could go nuclear about, cracking out the launch codes for this ordeal still makes very little sense to this writer.
Riot needs to work on staying grounded, but so do we, it seems.