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Riot explains why their pro gamers can't stream competitors' games (update 3)

Riot prohibits its pro gaming teams from live-streaming gameplay from competitor titles as part of an effort to "ensure a true professional setting," according to a post on Reddit from director of eSports, Whalen Rozelle

The rule will be in effect for those participating in the 2014 League of Legends Championship Series. Earlier today, onGamers posted a photo of the contract's regulations, which dictates that specific developers or products "are not to be advertised during or adjacent to League of Legends." This prevents players from live-streaming content from competing titles. Among the games listed are StarCraft 2, Dota 2, Heroes of Newerth, Infinite Crisis and World of Tanks.

All titles are mentioned in the "Sponsorship and Streaming Restricted List," which also prohibits websites featuring gambling or pornographic content. Participants are also restricted from non-over the counter drugs, firearms and tobacco products. Rules are in effect for the duration of the contract.

In response to criticism from the community, Rozelle explained on Reddit that signed athletes are part of the sport's representation.

We say this all the time: we want League of Legends to be a legitimate sport. There are some cool things that come from that (salaried professional athletes, legitimate revenue streams, visas, Staples Center), but there's also a lot of structural work that needs to be done to ensure a true professional setting.

We recognize there may be some differences of opinion in the perception of pro players' streams. In the past, pro gamers only had to worry about their personal brands when streaming and, at most, may have had to worry about not using the wrong brand of keyboard to keep their sponsor happy. Now, however, these guys are professionals contracted to a professional sports league. When they're streaming to 50,000 fans, they're also representing the sport itself.

I can't stress enough how these guys in the LCS are on the road to being real, legitimate athletes. This is new territory for a lot of teams (especially in eSports), because the transition goes from being a group of talented individuals to being real icons of a sport and a league. Similarly, you probably wouldn't see an NFL player promoting Arena Football or a Nike-sponsored player wearing Reebok on camera. Pro players are free to play whatever games they want — we're simply asking them to keep in mind that, on-stream, they're the face of competitive League of Legends.

When contacted by Polygon, Riot declined to comment directly and instead pointed us to Rozelle's post on Reddit. We have reached out to several developers with games included on the banned list. At the time of this post, only Turbine Studios has responded and declined to comment.

Update: When contacted, Smite developer Hi-Rez Studios said they have no comment on Riot's policies at this time.

Update 2: In a statement sent to Polygon, Ronimo Games' Jasper Koning said that the studio is unhappy with the restrictions. The full statement is below.

We are disappointed to see Riot impose restrictions upon the spare time of it's League of Legends Championship Series players. It's understandable Riot as a company wants to protect its interests, but the way they're doing it now is decidedly unsportsmanlike, anti-competitive and it sets a bad precedent.

It could mean that future professional eSports athletes would have to ally themselves to a single company to be able to compete. This kind of segmentation goes against the efforts to professionalize the eSports scene as a whole. On top of that, as a developer paying gamers to publicly only play your game actually reduces the validity of their competitive efforts and turns it into a marketing tool.

Importantly, it also stifles the gamers' ability to entertain an audience, a crucial element to the still-young game streaming scene. Which in itself is crucial to bringing eSports to a broader audience. We ourselves would never dream of paying gamers to stop publicly enjoying games we love playing ourselves as well, games like League of Legends, but also Hearthstone and Dota 2.

The competitive scene is a big part of Awesomenauts, the successful Kickstarter for the Starstorm expansion showed that our community wants to see more features that support that, such as replays and spectator mode. We at Ronimo feel that games are there for the player and that developers should listen to what the players want, instead of the other way around.

Update 3: A representative from Heroes of Newerth developer S2 Games provided the following statement to Polygon.

We view eSports differently — it is a platform for competition, growth, and the collective celebration of video gaming passion. We do not view it as a leveraging tool for anti-competitive and monopolistic practices. S2 Games will continue to support the eSports idea as a whole, not just our own specific interests in it.

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