Thursday, December 5, 2013

League of Legends Streaming Rules - Their Way Or The Highway

I don't care much about e-sports, but I find the current controversy over streaming restrictions on professional-level League of Legends players fascinating.  As officially confirmed by Riot, pro players are required to agree never to livestream themselves playing any "competing product" for the duration of the upcoming professional season.  The forbidden list includes every current Blizzard franchise, other current and upcoming MOBA's, the World of Tanks/Warplanes games from Wargaming.net, and the canceled-during-beta Warhammer Online MOBA Wrath of Heroes (good luck "live" streaming that one).

This type of restriction is almost certainly within Riot's rights, since no one is forcing anyone to play League in general or participate in its competitive play in particular.  As the run-away leader in this particular sector, they can likely get away with the move, regardless of rational arguments that it's not a good idea or in their long-term interest.  Nor is it entirely without precedent - Bioware's official fansite program for SWTOR restricts sites from promoting other products or using any advertising, in exchange for a link on their official listing and possibly other perks (e.g. in the past fansites got exclusive dev comments). 

The thing that resonates with this policy is that it's not so different from the position that regular customers find ourselves in every day when service providers (including but not limited to MMO's) do things that we don't like.  In some ways, the real victims here are NOT the professionals, who are being compensated for their commitment, but rather the viewers of streams that will be less interesting to watch due to the restrictions. 

You always have a choice to walk away, and your choice is almost always going to hurt you - by depriving you of a service you thought was worth paying for - more than it hurts the company that made the decision you disliked because it was in their interest to do so.  This particular case just had the misfortune of making it obvious how little power the customer actually has.

2 comments:

Doone Woodtac said...

I thought this was a really interesting controversy too, though in the end I think it's not fair or good to stop gamers from gaming. I don't see how this policy can be a good thing for Riot or the gamers who play LoL.

I also think this will be one of the critical factors we see a decline in LoL interest with a simultaneous rise in DOTA 2 interest in 2014. *puts magic crystal ball away*

Green Armadillo said...

I assume that the pay and prizes for professional-level players in LoL is significantly higher than any of their competitors. Therefore, I don't expect a significant number of pro players to quit rather than sign. If my assumption is wrong then Riot just miscalculated badly.

Of course, the point of paying the pro level players is not to make money off of those players. The point is that they're marketing the game to the general public. If pro streams are boring because streamers have nothing to do while waiting for queues, then that could undermine the business reason for having a pro league in the first place. The question is how directly loss of stream viewership translates into lost revenue for Riot.