Riot Games Threatens to Cancel League of Legends Esports Season Over Player Revolt

Riot Games Threatens to Cancel League of Legends Esports Season Over Player Revolt

The professional League of Legends (LoL) scene has been thrown into turmoil as players have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a walkout to protest changes made by Riot Games to the minor leagues. In response, Riot has issued a threat to cancel the summer season of the League Championship Series (LCS), potentially preventing North American teams from qualifying for the LoL World Championship, unless an agreement can be reached.

The decision to take action comes just days before the scheduled start of the LCS Summer Split, the premier level of LoL esports in North America. In an attempt to resolve the ongoing issues with players and the LCS Players Association (LCSPA), Riot has delayed the season by two weeks.

In a blog post, Naz Aletaha, Riot’s global head of LoL esports, expressed hope that the two-week period would allow for productive dialogue between the LCSPA, teams, and the league, with the intention of resuming LCS competition this summer. Aletaha assured that teams would not be penalized for not fielding their rosters during this period, emphasizing the need for constructive dialogue and the avoidance of negative impacts on LCS employees and contractors.

However, Riot stated that it could not further delay the Summer Split, as doing so would jeopardize the legitimacy of the competition. Aletaha acknowledged that canceling the season was not an ideal outcome but emphasized the need for a fair and competitive global system.

The LCSPA claimed that there had been attempts to force teams to field replacement players at the beginning of the season, urging potential replacements to refuse to play in order to protect players’ futures and maintain negotiating power.

This protest marks one of the first major instances of collective action within the esports industry. The walkout is in response to Riot’s recent decision to remove the requirement for LCS teams to field a team in an official farm system, a move aimed at supporting the long-term success of teams and the esports ecosystem in North America.

Following Riot’s decision, most LCS teams swiftly announced their intention to drop their North American Challengers League (NACL) rosters. The LCSPA stated that this move would lead to approximately 70 players, coaches, and managers losing their jobs, highlighting that the majority of current LCS players emerged from the official farm system. The association also noted that the cost of NACL rosters accounted for a small percentage of an average LCS organization’s League-based salary costs.

The LCSPA has presented several conditions to Riot, including the implementation of a promotion and relegation format between the LCS and NACL, as well as a revenue pool commitment of $300,000 per NACL team per year for player salaries.

Aletaha addressed the LCSPA’s requests in the blog post, expressing concerns about the sustainability of such subsidies for the NACL. However, Riot has agreed to provide a one-time payment of $300,000 to the organization operating the NACL to support the season and assist teams.

In response to Riot’s stance, the LCSPA emphasized the importance of players and pledged to engage in discussions aimed at collaborative action to restore players’ ability to compete on the LCS stage.

The coming days will be crucial in determining the outcome of this dispute, as both Riot and the players seek a resolution that ensures the continuation of a thriving and competitive esports ecosystem for League of Legends.