The Korean e-Sports Association, Riot Games, and onGameNet have announced some big changes for the 2015 League of Legends Champions season. Most of them are structural: Shifting from tournament format to league format, establishing a parallel reserve league, and doing away with "sister teams" in favor of expanded rosters for league teams. But what's particularly interesting are measures intended to improve the welfare of Korean pro gamers, including the introduction of a minimum salary policy.
KeSPA wants to establish a "Minimum Salary Policy for Pro Players" for the 2015 season, according to an onGamers report, which will set salary standards "on par with other domestic professional sports to help pro players lead a stable professional career." Also proposed is a minimum one-year contract requirement for players on LoL Champions teams, although that won't become mandatory until the 2016 season.
Specific numbers aren't mentioned, but a follow-up Inven analysis, translated by onGamers, notes that the minimum salary for professional baseball players in Korea is roughly $27,000, while the minimum for pro soccer players is $24,000, and basketball players bottom out at $35,000. The site guessed, based on the audience differential between e-sports and conventional sports, that the minimum salary for pro gamers will come in at around $20,000.
The problem as it currently stands, according to League of Legends caster Erik "DoA" Lonnquist, is simply that pro gamers can make more money elsewhere. "There's a lot of money in the Korean LoL scene through various sponsorships, but not a lot of that was ending up in the players' hands. Traditionally Korea has a history of paying their entertainment and sports talent considerably lower than what comparable positions in other parts of the world make," he said. "Players finally got fed up with it, recognized the financial opportunities abroad and soon the top teams here began to hemorrhage players left and right. These new 'improvements' are partially designed to stop that from continuing."
According to the Inven report, "Riot Games is planning on financially supporting the eight teams that will be competing in the LoL Champions" league, but the extent of its financial commitment wasn't revealed.