Moonton reportedly using optional exclusivity clause to prevent orgs in Mobile Legends Professional League from having Wild Rift teams

Team Secret’s CEO John Yao talked to Dot Esports about the situation.

Image via Moonton

Teams competing in the Mobile Legends: Bang Bang Professional League (MPL) may have to drop their League of Legends: Wild Rift rosters. Moonton is reportedly including an exclusivity clause in its contract with organizations competing in the MPL that will keep them from having a Wild Rift lineup.

The news was first revealed by Onic Esports’ Govher “Gov” Tallulembang Madethen in a since-deleted livestream on Wild Rift YouTuber Kurohiko’s channel. The player alleged that Moonton is attempting to monopolize the esports market in the region. Dot Esports reached out to Gov, who refused to comment further on the situation.

As of now, none of the major esports organizations in the MPL, including Onic Esports, have dropped their Wild Rift rosters. A source working in the MPL told Filipino sports website Spin.PH that the exclusivity contract was optional. The source alleged that organizations have the freedom to choose exclusivity in the MPL. If they agree to do so, the orgs will reportedly receive “revenues and benefits.”

Fans had been speculating if Nexplay Esports’ recent announcement of releasing its Wild Rift roster could be a result of the MPL’s exclusivity contract. Nexplay partnered with EVOS Esports last month to create a Mobile Legends team for the eighth season of the MPL Philippines. The organization killed those rumors earlier today, however, after announcing that it was looking for new players for its Wild Rift division. It appears that Nexplay is just looking to revamp its roster in the game.

Dot Esports reached out to several organizations, including Bigetron, RRQ, EVOS, and Onic, regarding the exclusivity clause but didn’t receive a reply. It’s also unclear if the exclusivity only applies to Wild Rift or other games as well. Moonton didn’t reply to requests for comment either.

Riot Games told Dot Esports that it was aware of the situation but couldn’t comment on its plans yet. “We can, however, affirm that we do not restrict Wild Rift SEA esports teams from participating in other mobile esports leagues and we empower teams to exercise freedom of choice in this space,” Riot said.

Moonton, which was acquired by TikTok owners ByteDance earlier this year, and Riot’s rivalry stretches back a few years. In 2018, Riot’s parent company Tencent was awarded about $2.9 million in a case against Moonton’s CEO Xu Zhenhua in China. Riot claimed that Mobile Legends had several striking similarities to League of Legends. These resemblances extended to many champions and their abilities, the map, and more.

Wild Rift is a direct competitor to Moonton’s Mobile Legends. Esports plays a huge role in promoting a game and Moonton could be attempting to reduce this as much as possible with its alleged exclusivity deal.

Team Secret’s CEO John Yao is one of the few influential people in the esports scene from the SEA region who’s chimed in on the situation. Secret doesn’t have a team in the MPL but signed a Wild Rift roster in the Philippines earlier this year. Yao publicly criticized the exclusivity in a Facebook post.

“Even for orgs, investing in multiple games is integral to survival, so I certainly hope ML is paying really well enough to justify signing away exclusivity,” Yao said.

Kind of amusing that Mobile Legends teams are not allowed to have Wild Rift divisions, but in Mobile Legends itself Evos…

Posted by John Yao on Thursday, July 8, 2021

Yao told Dot Esports that even if all the organizations agree to sign the exclusivity clause, it won’t have a drastic impact on Wild Rift esports in the region.

The impact, according to him, would only be felt in the beginning since the game would miss out on being promoted by the big esports organizations that possess a large fan base. Yao also felt that the potential pool of unclaimed talent that could exist if the orgs in the MPL drop their Wild Rift rosters might attract international organizations to the region.

“At the end of the day, if the game is strong, the IP is good, the competitive environment is really good, [exclusivity with the MPL] leaves more space for other organizations to come in,” Yao said.

Yao also expressed confidence in Riot’s ability to grow Wild Rift into a global esports title. He gave the example of the developer’s new FPS title, VALORANT, which has a budding esports scene around the world.

VALORANT is also a relatively new game and the first global competition’s viewership and everything was really good,” Yao said. “All the regional competitions are lighting up and we hope [Wild Rift] follows that model. Riot has proven that it can take a game that is very new and grow up the ecosystem in a fast way.”