We looked last month at the rising financial tensions in the pro League of Legends scene, and the controversy caused when Riot Games co-founder Marc “Tryndamere” Merrill glibly dismissed multiple criticisms of the situation expressed by TSM's Andy “Reginald” Dinh. He quickly retracted the statement, owners and players expressed solidarity under the #LCSForever hashtag, and there was talk of change, although perhaps without great confidence that any actual change would be forthcoming.
Today, however, Riot indicated that changes are coming. “As we move into 2017 and beyond, we’re continuing to take steps towards a future where top LoL players have very well paid, long careers doing what they love—and where LoL esports team organizations are thriving businesses led by empowered owners who share responsibility and accountability for the long term prosperity of the sport,” Riot wrote in a message entitled LoL Esports Now and in the Future.
“To help get us there, we’ll share LoL esports revenue streams and collaborate with our partners to develop new business models and actively shape the league,” it continued. “We want these partners to have permanent stakes, to be invested in a stable future, and to profit from the continued success of the sport.”
The message says the pro LoL scene follows a “three step path” to success, those being fandom, economics, and stability, each of which builds on the other. It's all rather vague and hazy, largely because most of the details aren't yet nailed down, but Riot did reveal some of the changes to revenue sharing it's making to “create additional revenue streams for players and teams.” Among them:
- Championship skin and ward: From now, 25 percent of revenue from each year’s Championship skin and Championship Ward will be added to the Worlds prize pool. That means every purchase of Championship Zed will directly increase the prize pool for Worlds 2016. For context, had this been applied last year, it would have more than doubled the prize pool.
- Challenger skin: Similarly, going forward, 25 percent of revenue from each year’s Challenger skin will be added to the MSI prize pool.
- Team Championship skins: Beginning with the winning team from this year’s Worlds, we will be sharing 25 percent of the revenue earned on skin sales in the launch year of each set of Team Championship skins directly with the players who inspired them, as well as their team and league (because it takes a village to make a champion). In the spirit of celebrating past champions, we’ll also be sharing revenue from past Team Championship skins with the previous winners—players, teams and leagues (Fnatic, TPA, SKT, Samsung White and SKT again)
Riot will launch further revenue-sharing opportunities next year, including team-branded in-game items and esports promotions, and improve the share percentages on summoner icons. These are obviously mostly forward-looking changes, but it's nice to see past championship winners getting some retroative pay from Team Championship skin sales.
Riot said the money-making potential is “extremely strong for committed teams building strong brands,” but because the products are new and untested, teams in each league will receive a guaranteed minimum “based on regional needs.”
“Even without counting the retroactive payments to past champions, this will contribute millions of dollars in additional revenue to teams and pros each year,” Riot said.
It's not a complete solution—the process of securing and structuring international partnerships won't even begin until 2018—but it's a start. The full, work-in-progress breakdown of Riot's plan for the future of pro LoL is up at lolesports.com.