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Some LCS team owners aren’t happy with Riot, here's why

It started with Reddit, naturally.

Riot Games

On August 22, Team SoloMid owner and founder Andy “Reginald” Dinh talked in an interview about his team’s frustration over the way patches are currently being handled by Riot. This was followed by a flurry of comments over the next several days from a number of people including Riot’s co-founder and two former LCS team owners.

In the original interview, Dinh explained the stress that large in-season patches put on players, coaches and organizations particularly when the game drastically changes before large events. This year, after a split of games that mostly started with lane swaps, Patch 6.15 made standard lanes the norm right before playoffs. Last year, the Juggernaut class was reworked right before Worlds, and champions like Darius wreaked havoc.

Dinh feels this leads to too much of a team’s success being determined by Riot’s in-season balance decisions. For example, a smaller organization getting relegated due to an unfortunate patch for their roster. This creates stability concerns that Dinh says are a significant barrier to further LCS investment.

“It’s an unstable environment overall and I think that if we wanted like a system... where there wasn’t franchising and it was an open system,“ he said, “I would prefer a completely open system or a completely closed off system... I would say it’s really volatile for the organizations and the players.”

Riot’s co-founder responds on Reddit

A few hours after the interview was posted Riot Co-Founder Marc “Tryndamere” Merrill posted a comment on Reddit. In his post, Merrill brought up several issues not directly addressed by Dinh. Most immediate, and shocking, of these topics was his statement on player wages.

“Maybe [Dinh] should spend some more of the millions he has made / makes from League of Legends on paying them instead of investing in other eSports where he is losing money,” Merrill wrote.

Merrill also mentioned that he feels the balance of power between owners and players is far too lopsided in favor of the owners. Regarding patch timing - the original issue from Dinh’s interview - Merrill called the timing for last year’s Juggernaut patch “sub-optimal,” but goes on to say:

“This year though, we intentionally prioritized the game health and viewer experience over the ability for teams / coaches to field ‘safer’ comps by lane swapping. We tend to think this has worked well based on the amount of 5 game series we’ve seen and how bloody games have been....”

Merrill later edited his post to remove his accusation of unfair player pay, as well as to add increased context to some of his other points. The area Merrill adds the most information is in regards to investment in other esports, saying, “One of the challenges is when these profits (from League) are then allocated to other non-League games instead of continuing to invest in the scene and their players.”

Riot Games

Two former owners chime in

The next person to weigh in on the debate was OGN caster and owner of former LCS team Renegades, Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles. Mykles response - directed at the comments made by Merrill rather than the original interview - came in the form of a video that was posted as a part of his series “Monte’s Musings.” The video itself takes aim primarily at the ways that Riot handles it’s monetary relationship with owners and teams in the LCS.

Mykles said that he feels it is Riot’s responsibility to raise player salaries, as teams are already paying their players, to his knowledge, above the Riot-mandated minimum. Mykles also raised questions as to why Riot’s team stipend hasn’t gone up since 2013 despite the growth both of the LCS and League of Legends as a whole has seen since then, stating:

“If [Merrill] is so concerned about the financial health of his players maybe he should spend more money... Maybe you should raise the stipend. You haven’t raised a stipend for the players since 2013. The league has gotten so much bigger than that... You have the power. Your company made 1.6 billion dollars last year.”

Former Enemy esports owner Robert “Chachi” Stemmler took to Twitlonger post, Stemmler detailed the reasons why he thinks many issues would be alleviated through a better Challenger Series with no promotion and relegation.

“Challenger will instead be a farm team system for LCS organizations, who will focus more on developing talent than flash-in-the-pan qualification with LCS veterans followed by sale.”

TSM owner Andy Dinh
Riot Games

Dinh responds

The day after the original Merrill comment was posted, Dinh released a response via Twitlonger. In this response, Dinh provided a brief history of his involvement with the League of Legends professional scene and the variety of ways he has invested both his time and money to help League grow to where it is today.

Dinh directly addressed the two points he feels Merrill is focused on. Responding first to the idea that LCS organizations have used their profits from League of Legends to invest in other games, Dinh explained that the decision to invest in other esports was one born of necessity.

“Most LCS teams lose money because stipends are stagnant, sponsorships for LCS team operations are shrinking and the cost of player salaries, content production, support staff and housing costs are spiraling up,” Dinh wrote.

Dinh also pointed to the relegation system of the LCS as another of the mounting factors for investment in other esports. He claimed the dynamics of the relationship between Riot and owners as “one-sided.” Dinh called on Riot to provide teams with security and to help better distribute revenue so that players and owners can see a piece of the profits.

The second issue of Merrill’s that Dinh addressed is in regards to patches and LCS owner complaints about them. In this section of his response, Dinh explains — from his perspective as both a player and an owner — why huge patches in critical times during the LCS season can be detrimental.

“LCS player careers are already too short and mid-season patches ratchet up the stress on them and further increase the odds of being cut,” he said. “This kind of TIMING of patches can force a team to make a roster change rather than trying to coach players through a difficult patch transition. A few weeks of poor performance can end a player’s career and nobody wants to improve player job security more than me.”

Dinh went on to say that this is both a downside to players and owners. When combined with the potential for relegation, it stands as a significant detractor to further investment in the LCS.

Merrill responds too

Merrill issued another statement Wednesday, clarifying his agreement on many of Dinh’s issues and offering a hint at future solutions.

Our 2017 plans include new in-game team-specific items with revenue-sharing for teams and pros, as well as smaller steps like working with teams to sell more jerseys - currently in the NA LCS studio store and at the summer finals in Toronto - and with the cooperation of teams, we hope to bring them to our online store as well.

Dinh responds again

And this time, a proposal is coming signed by multiple teams.

While each owner had different specifics for their arguments, the underlying themes are very similar. The owners want an increase in security for their LCS position, they want better patch timing for the sake of their players, and they want a larger piece of the LCS revenue that they deem fair.

The Rift Herald has reached out to Riot for comment but has not yet received a response.