Riot's Chinese Takeover, What We Stand to Lose
Yesterday it came to the attention of the competitive League of Legends scene that Riot Games, the developer of the popular MOBA League of Legends, intends to take control of their game's professional Chinese scene. Traditionally, this region has been managed by Tencent Holdings Limited, a large Chinese multi-conglomerate that touches everything from video game development to online auction sites. Tencent also happens to be Riot's parent company and own approximately 93% of the company. Before starting to make moves to take control of this region, the only two major areas of play that they've had a hand in operating has been North America and Europe, where they have full control over everything. This trend was always likely to be continued into other scenes around the world. The news has scared many knowledgeable fans of the scene, let's find out why.
There are many things that the Chinese scene have a chance to lose in this deal, but to be fair, Riot employee Whalen "Magnus" Rozelle has denied that they intend to take full control and that these talks focus mainly on "operations" and "presentations". Despite his attempts to smooth things over with the community, I still have my doubts.
I'm going to start with a major one: the potential for the mass banning of professional Chinese players. It's no secret that the Chinese community is what Riot has named "toxic". Players, even ones at the highest level of the game, will rage their way through solo queue games and chew out their teammates. In the regions that Riot has full control of, this can and usually will result in some form of punishment, either through fines or suspension. Several players have also received long-term bans barring them from playing in the LCS for over a year. As I said, the Chinese community is often considered to be on a whole different level when it comes to "toxicity". How would you feel if out of nowhere the Chinese pro player base was significantly weakened due to Riot's bans?
In similar vain to player's attitudes in game, when it comes to the Chinese pro league there is one well-known source of income for pro players: elo boosting. Although the elo rating system is no longer used, it is still a term grandfathered into the vocabulary of most LoL players. In this context, it simply refers to boosting a player's rank by a significant amount. This is an extremely lucrative business in China and it is quite common for pro players there to partake in such activities to make some extra money on the side, or even because it's part of their organization's operations and they're forced to! Recently, Yu "Xiao Wei Xiao" Xian, who is a Chinese native that was playing in North America for Team Impulse, was banned for this exact reason. Riot has shown that they have a "no tolerance" policy for modern players that have been caught boosting. How will this affect the LPL if they take over?
Like I said previously, "Magnus" has attempted to ease our worries about what they are planning to do in China. The two situations listed above, however, seem even more likely after his statement on reddit. "These include the consistency of the LPL from operations (rulings aligned with other pro leagues..." It is quite easy to interpret from this quote that they plan to bring the same level of "justice" from the west to China and it makes me fearful for the 2016 season.
There were several worries that fans had before his comment, but truthfully a simple response on a fan run forum doesn't mean these are 100% ruled out for the future. Some of these include the potential of eliminated third party tournaments from the Chinese scene, something they've done in the west to the disappointment of many fans, and the fear that they might bring the LPL format (currently playing sets of two each week) in alignment with their LCS format (currently best of ones, one of the most hated ways of doing things). As I said before, I'm worried that they may be lying through their teeth here. If they don't intend to change these aspects of the league, doesn't that mean they accept that they are superior or at least just as good? If so, why don't they bring the Chinese way of doing things to the west? It's a style that many fans and even pro players have requested over the past few years.
Something that truly bothers me about Magnus' statement was "...the 'Riot' that's talking to Tencent now is Riot China. They're a local team focused entirely on local issues. They're free to disagree with 'Riot NA' or 'Riot EU' if they want." It's a well-known fact that Riot likes to keep things centralised and determine how things are going to be operated from their North American office. Could this allude to the idea that they're attempting to cover up their plans to prevent more fan outrage?
Outside of issues touched by Magnus' comment, there are a few more problems I have. The Chinese scene is famous for the amount of money that they throw around, each team is owned by multi-millionaires, making it similar to traditional sports. In the past, Riot has shown that they will block people who the don't agree with from owning teams. Could Riot's arrival spark a new age of previously unseen politics in the Chinese competitive world?
Riot expanding their influence throughout the eSports sphere has made many people uneasy. They've already pushed through KESPA to force the Korean scene to shift their format to be more similar to the rest of the world and with this news coming out, it seems like they'll continue to weasel their way through other scenes as well. At this point, fans of the game can only hope that things don't get too out of control.
What do you think about this news, are you worried or do you think the changes won't be substantial enough to warrant any worrying? Let us know in the comments below and remember to follow us here at eSports Guru for all your League of Legends needs!