Madlife, Shy and Ryu planned to play in North America
Late last night, Riot Games announced a new policy that would essentially bar any team from moving to a foreign country to compete in a Riot-sanctioned professional league. That decision has thrown a wrench in the plans of multiple Korean players who were looking to compete in the North American and European League Championship Series, sources with strong connections in Korean esports told the Daily Dot.
Hong “Madlife” Min-gi, Park “Shy” Sang-myeon, and Ryu “Ryu” Sang-ook had plans to form a team and move to Los Angeles this December, then compete in the challenger series in January. Hong and Park are still under contract with the CJ organization through January, but would have been allowed to leave the team due to their veteran status, according to our sources.
That move has now been blocked thanks to Riot's new rule, called the Global Interregional Movement Policy, which requires three players on the rosters to be considered a “resident.” Riot say they plan to announce more details on how a player meets a residency requirement next week.
Hong and Park aren't only ones who suddenly need to change plans. The Samsung organization, who currently have two teams attending the world championship, planned to bring a new team to Europe, called Samsung Red, sources told us.
The move is surely intended to keep foreign teams from saturating domestic leagues. Korea and China, in particular, are widely considered to have deep leagues, with a number of teams who could potentially push North American or European squads out of the top tier of competition. In North America, Chinese team LMQ successfully qualified for the LCS this summer, eventually earning a spot as a North American representative at Riot's World Championships. The new rule will not affect current rosters, however.
The decision comes just days after Blizzard announced a similar policy for its premiere global StarCraft tournament, the World Championship Series. Over the past few years, the North America and European regions for that tournament slowly became filled with Korean players, making it harder for local talent to establish itself. Blizzard’s implementation of a “region locking” rule ensures that each region is a better representation of local talent, even if it reduces the overall skill-level of the top competition.
In the case of League of Legends, Riot's decision to limit foreign-born players is likely a move to bolster the strength of weaker leagues, nipping this type of regional imbalance in the bud.
Photo via Riot Games/Flickr