Romino and S2 Games say Riot's refusal to allow LCS players to stream other games during the season is "unsportsmanlike" and "anti-competitive."
It was revealed earlier this week that the contract for the upcoming fourth League of Legends Championship Series forbids any streaming of other games by LCS players during the season, including Dota 2, StarCraft, Hearthstone, Heroes of Newerth, Awesomenauts and a slew of others. While several studios whose games are affected by the restrictions have declined to comment on the matter, Awesomenauts co-creator Jasper Koning told onGamers that Romino Games is "disappointed to see Riot impose restrictions on the spare time of it's LoL Championship Series players."
"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," he said. "It could mean that future professional eSports athletes would have to ally themselves to a single company to be able to compete. 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."
Koning also expressed concern that by "stifling the gamers' ability to entertain," the LCS restrictions will inevitably shrink the eSports audience rather than grow it.
Marc DeForest of Heroes of Newerth studio S2 Games also criticized the new LCS contract. "We view eSports differently - it is a platform for competition, growth, and the collective celebration of videogaming passion," he said. "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."
There was initially some question about whether the new contract actually forbids streaming of other games or just "advertising" for them, but Riot confirmed with onGamers that the restrictions are as they appear. In a post on Reddit, Riot Games Director of eSports Whalen Rozelle said that while there may be some differences of opinion, LCS players are "professionals contracted to a professional sports league. When they're streaming to 50,000 fans, they're also representing the sport itself."
"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," Rozelle wrote. "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."