The League of Legends Worlds Championship is once again upon the horizon! There are just days remaining before the eSports fans worldwide gather their attention to the rift and witness the best of the best competing on the grandest stage of them all. Teams and players from across the continents will battle for supremacy, glory and to prove that they are the best. Some will look to rewrite the past and just put up a good performance, some will try to make the ultimate step and give their all to be etched in the Summoner’s Cup and some will finally get a taste of what it’s like to be playing with the big boys and get as much experience out of it as possible.
Yet, the attention of everyone in the scene is pointed elsewhere. It was just announced that the most coveted casters from the Korean “LCK” Region, Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles and Erik “DoA” Lonnquist will not be amongst the broadcasting team for this year’s “Worlds” competition. And even though that doesn’t come as a surprise to the slightly more immersed fan, it is the way that Riot Games, the developers of the most played game in the world, handled the situation. Riot has always been controversial as an organization, but they’ve been able to get away with it for a while now due to the imminent success of their game. As we’ve come to witness over the years, though, no game is eternal. And companies need to work on every aspect of their operations at all times to make sure they can continue to exist, let alone actually climb higher and higher in the achievements and success column.
It is a fact that “Montecristo” and Riot have had their differences in the past. Riot banned Mykles from being an owner and even made sure that his team would need to leave the competitive League scene as a whole for reasons that have never been proven to be more than just rumors. The reasoning they gave was that they knew of an agreement between the former Renegades owner and Chris Badawi, who was already banned for poaching players from other teams and other similar “unlawful” actions. And if some believe that this is a decision they could have done based on a number of valid points, it is the lack of evidence that anything between the two occurred. Also, the manner in which Monte was made to sell the team is an entirely demeaning approach that didn’t win them a single fan but made them a hell of a lot of enemies. Mykles was told to find a buyer and sell his team for a period of only 10 days and any attempt to justify himself was met with utter silence. To top it all off, a recent investigation by the top eSports journalist Richard Lewis uncovered some very shady ties between other organizations with their own League of Legends teams, this time in Europe. It turned out that G2 and Fnatic had even signed an agreement according to which Jens Hilgers, a minority stakeholder in G2 gave the Fnatic organization a money loan officially documented on paper. This is grounds for potential extortion on so many levels that it should have immediately resulted in a ban similar to that of Mykles to both parties involved. And this is dictated by Riot’s own rules made to run the competitive LoL scene, the very own rules that were cited in Monte’s ban reasoning. Let me remind you that the evidence for the Mykles-Badawi agreement was nothing more than just hearsay. Furthermore, the agreement between G2 and Fnatic had a clause that stated something along the lines of “if the money was not returned in due time, the G2 representative would assume ownership of one of the oldest eSports organizations in Fnatic”. But it would appear that such coveted organizations, one of which is even attending the World Championship this year, could not have just been punished so severely. It didn’t matter to Riot that the precedent was there. It didn’t matter that they didn’t have to make up evidence out of nowhere, it was standing right in front of them. What was most important was once again for Riot to get things to happen their way. And as a result, Jens Hilgers and Fnatic just got a “formal warning”. In other words, they were gently patted on the back and reminded who’s boss as far as League of Legends is concerned.
But would all this have happened if Monte hadn’t stood up for what’s right not as a team owner but as a caster? Let me share my thoughts – probably not or at least not as soon. One can only speculate how far a few power-hungry people can go in their attempt to always get what they want instead of acknowledging the evolution of the trade. A few months ago, right around the time the Mid-Year Invitational was coming up, the famous Korean duo of Mykles and Lonnquist declined Riot Games’ offer to cast at the event with the reasoning that the payment rates they were offered to do so were significantly lower than what other casters were getting paid at similar events(but for other games). And the caster community across eSports had their backs. Both back then and right now, other analysts and commentators, not directly linked to Riot Games of course, revealed to the duo the exact numbers they are making at events. Amongst those was that same revered journalist in the sector, Richard Lewis, who also just released a video in which he talks about the situation, specifically stating that him and others in the CS:GO caster
community divulged that information to Monte and DoA.
One is made to think, “how long can this charade last and when will the bubble burst,” fueled by the restrictions Riot as a company puts on its own employees. They are not allowed to be a part of the coverage team on any other game, they are not allowed to produce their own content, they are even so afraid to speak their minds about such subjects that every now and then, when such drama occurs, some of them preventively deny any involvement with people they’ve been close with for years, just to make sure the hatchet won’t land in their garden. Just ask yourself this: Where are all the top Western casters in their support towards Monte and DoA? Why haven’t they been as open as their colleagues from other regions? And, sadly, the answer is that with the exception of a few of them, like Duncan “Thoorin” Shields, everyone else either is connected to Riot in some employment regard or to say it in a simpler fashion – they are in Riot’s pockets. We as fans, are growing more and more frustrated with the way the situation is handled. But the biggest scare for most of us is that there is no indication that this will be changing any time soon. There hasn’t been a change in that regard for so long that people are questioning if such has ever been implemented. One example is how the company hasn’t changed the prize money for the World Championship in years now. And if some other games like Dota 2 and CS:GO have basically doubled, or tripled their prize funds, a simple increase in the League of Legends one would do so much positives to both Riot, the game, and eSports as a whole. Instead, huge sponsors such as “Coca Cola” have already exited the scene after giving it a try due to “poor handling of advertisements”.
This situation, however, concerns Erik “DoA” Lonnquist just as much. The news are more focused around Mykles because of his previous experiences with Riot’s tyrannical rule, but what about our favorite color caster? DoA is just as important as Monte is. He brings balance to the force! He is the one who always sticks to the positive of the situation. He is the one who’s been giving us so much joy by allowing us to picture the analysis been done on the caster and analyst desk with references and explanations that are both simple enough so that we get the right away and at the same time deep enough that they paint the picture just as it was meant to be painted. Who could forget the experience of Erik solo casting a match of Korean League of Legends on his own due to his partner being unavailable that day? No one else has managed to keep it entertaining by himself. He is the mastermind of so many catch phrases in the scene such as “supportal combat” and more. And, most importantly, he is true to his co-caster Monte and has always supported him in his decisions and stood by him.
DoA also isn’t going to be at Worlds this year as a caster or an analyst. But, in contrast to Mykles, he actually received an offer to be a part of it. This once again shows the lack of decent professional approach in Riot as an organization. Erik declined the offer stating he has other eSports related obligations in South Korea and personal projects. Some of these have been recently announced as well.The LCK duo of Mykles and Lonnquist will be casting Overwatch for a league that is starting soon at OGN, the same employer who has kept them together and treated them well and without any intent on the side as far as the community knows.
It will be great to see the two in their new roles and what their thoughts on an FPS game will be. People will happily continue to watch their broadcast and share in great moments, just like it’s always been, but in a new game. What does this mean for League of Legends though? Does it finally put an end to our favorite duo’s involvement with the game? It could very well be the case. It’s not set in stone that they will not continue to cast LoL on top of everything, but if recent rumors have been any indication of rocking the boat on that front, then finally announcing such a big project with their involvement by might be what seals the deal. Monte and DoA have also been known to cast other games for OGN such as “Vainglory” and “Hearthstone”. And if Korean PC bangs are anything to go by, then Overwatch has already overtaken League of Legends as the most popular game in Korea. And don’t be fooled, no bloated statements from Riot of them reclaiming the first place with their 100 million monthly subscribers can hold up like before. On one side, it is way too easy to assume that 100 million monthly accounts don’t mean 100 million monthly unique players and on the other: it’s simply what happens when a company’s actions tarnish its reputation to a degree that it is hard to believe anything coming out of there, even if it is marked as an official statement.
As always, the future remains unclear, but the indications are there and the forecast is that there is a violent thunderstorm heading the way of the ship known by the name “Riot Games”, already rocking the boat as if it were not enough that the ship’s captain and his closest have started drilling holes in it. The question is: How long before the crew abandons ship?