Late Monday night, EsportsWikis founder “RheingoldRiver” announced site sponsor GAMURS will not be renewing contracts for the wiki’s staff. EsportsWikis was launched about a year ago, when Azubu similarly ended its deal with River over Esportspedia, the predecessor to EsportsWikis.
The League of Legends EsportsWiki is an invaluable tool used by media, players, analysts, coaches and fans. It holds information not only about current seasons (including standings, schedules, stats, champion selection and transactions), but past seasons as well. Considering how user-unfriendly and devoid of meaningful information Riot’s own Lolesports site is, parts of running The Rift Herald would be literally impossible without the wiki (we made this list of NA LCS MVP winners because Riot does not keep lists of winners of its own awards).
Don’t just take my word for it. Riot on-air analysts Indiana “Froskurinn” Black and Martin “Deficio” Lynge both spoke publicly about the importance of the wiki in their work.
River and her staff are essential to prep and the only wiki that ever gets LPL timezones, rosters, and VoDs correct.https://t.co/mNBQhZG9GJ— Froskurinn (@Froskurinn) June 13, 2017
It’s not just important for esports journalists and content creators; a resource like LoL EsportsWikis is vital for fans too. Fans flock to esports and traditional sports for the same reasons: excitement and wonder, for sure, but these events would be nothing without the narratives behind them. We can only learn the stories of players (and teams, and champions) from their past, and having records not just of how players did, but where they come from is vital to the future of this community.
Here’s the problem: Maintaining the wiki apparently costs a boatload of money, and doesn’t make much, according to GAMURS CEO Riad Chikhani.
To give transparency before our announcement tomorrow, GAMURS invested $270k into the wikis in 12mo. Revenue was just over $5k.— Riad Chikhani (@riad_chikhani) June 13, 2017
The only entity to which an investment of this size would make any sense is Riot Games, and I’m here to plead the powers that be in Santa Monica to consider investing in the project. This isn’t just for the good of the fans, the coaches or even me (although, please, please, please) — it’s for the good of the competitive League of Legends scene in general.
In traditional sports, the fanbases and appetites exist to a point where excellent resources like Baseball-Reference.com can exist without the intervention of Major League Baseball. LoL Esports is not yet at that point, and it’s the responsibility of Riot Games to make sure its fans stay informed — for the good of the fans and the health of the esport.
League of Legends is on the precipice of what’s next for the esport, whatever that may be. Continued growth has not yet equaled profitability in Riot’s esports sector, but a massive streaming deal and the franchising of the NA LCS (both scheduled to start in 2018) may soon change that.
What Riot needs is loyal, informed fans. Fans who are able to quickly access any information they need to follow the games they love -- be it:
- Transaction news (What player moves took place this offseason? When was Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen suspended, and for how long?)
- Past results (When’s the last time an NA team won an international competition? Who won the first split of LJL play?)
- Player narratives and history (Which champion has Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng played the most in his career? When did Daerek “LemonNation” Hart and Hai Lam first start playing together? What was Team Liquid coach Jang "Cain" Nu-ri’s playing career like?)
- Champion narratives and history (When’s the last time Aatrox was played in competitive play, and by whom? What were pro players building on Sivir in Season 5?).
None of that information is easily available on the official Lolesports website. For an organization hoping to build long-term fans centered around esports narratives, that’s a major problem.
Sports fans are made from their connections to players and organizations. In League of Legends, fans are also made from their connections to the game and its champions. It is not enough for Riot to depend on the latter for its esports audience: it has to do more to provide the information necessary to serve the needs of the former.
Before you get there: yes, the wiki will cost a lot of money, and not immediately bring any profit to Riot. But it’s not supposed to be a revenue stream. For esports fans, it’s a public service, like a library or the fire department. Eventually, it will pay dividends for Riot (through informed and loyal fans), but it’s important because it’s the right thing to do, for the fans and for the future of the esport.
Because how can you try to build for a sport’s future when you don’t value or even document its past?