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Sanctions threat snags League of Legends in Iran

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Player there says the game was taken down this weekend

Riot Games

League of Legends is now inaccessible in Iran and Syria, apparently in response to sanctions the United States says it will impose on Iran tomorrow.

In League of Legends forums yesterday, a player from Iran posted a screenshot of the message now greeting players in the two prohibited countries. “Due to U.S. laws and regulations, players in your country cannot access League of Legends at this time,” it says. “Such restrictions are subject to change by the U.S. government, so if and when that happens, we look forward to having you back on the Rift.”

“I love League of Legends. I wanna play,” the player added. “It’s the only game I enjoy playing. Political problems between Iran and America is between governments. Players and people have nothing to do with this.”

Conflict between United States and Iran, adversaries for more than 40 years, has grown steadily over the past year after Donald Trump announced, in May 2018, that the U.S. would withdraw from the 2015 international agreement limiting Iranian nuclear development. That agreement, signed by five other nations and the European Union, lifted some United Nations, EU and U.S. sanctions. But with America out, major European companies have abandoned business in Iran for fear of U.S. punishment, and Iran has said it would resume nuclear development if the rest of the signatories couldn’t guarantee their ends of the bargain.

Of late, Iran has been blamed for incidents in international waters around the Strait of Hormuz, which is south of the country, where tankers (but not American) have been attacked, mined and set on fire. On Thursday, Iran said it shot down an unmanned U.S. aircraft; Trump is said to have considered a military strike in response, but didn’t act on it. Instead, via Twitter, he promised additional sanctions were coming Monday.

Syria is caught up in this apparently because of its close alliance with the Iranian government — though the United States has imposed sanctions on that country for its ruling regime’s actions over an 8-year civil war.

League of Legends is a free-to-play game that makes its money off of microtransactions, which is why U.S.-based Riot Games has pulled business out of there. Evidently shutting off access to those countries’ IP addresses is easier than preserving the game but making its MTX sales inaccessible. In Iran, players may of course still access League of Legends with a VPN, but that means an extra expense and a higher ping rate, of course.

It’s the latest video games ramification growing out of Trump foreign policy choices. A trade war with China and the threat of additional tariffs would affect any consoles made in that country, and Nintendo is said to be moving some production of the Nintendo Switch in response.