HTC eSports is the latest organization to comment on controversial statements made by Riot Games President Marc "Tryndamere" Merrill and other Riot officials earlier this week about the long-term sustainability of League of Legends esports and its attractiveness to outside sponsors. In a statement on Facebook, HTC said that largely because of Riot's policies, it is becoming more difficult for mainstream sponsors to justify sponsoring teams in the LCS.
The post specifically addresses a Reddit comment made Wednesday by director of esports Whalen "Magus" Rozelle, which said Riot was opposed to a sponsor YouTube video made by Team SoloMid and HTC. The video shows TSM's LCS team playing the HTC Vive game Raw Data.
Magus said in his comment that the video was "a [tacit] advertisement for another game." "This is against LCS rules because LCS isn't a platform for other game companies to advertise on," he wrote. "Yes, this means there's a category that teams don't have access to but for any sport, letting quasi competitors advertise on the league doesn't make sense."
Rule 3.7 of Riot's official LCS rulebook states that teams are completely unrestricted in terms of what sponsors they are allowed to secure. Rule 3.7.6 lists "products or services from direct competitors" as one of the sponsors that are restricted in terms of being displayed by players at certain times, however the rule lists those times as: "the use or play of LoL, adjacent to LoL related material, the LCS, or any Riot-affiliated events."
While the rule does not explicitly ban players from participating in a video affiliated with what could be construed as a competitor, it does state that "LCS officials have the ability to update the category list at any time."
HTC said in its post that Riot threatened TSM with a fine if the video was not removed. The sponsor wrote that it was not "strategically trying to circumvent" Riot's policies, and that the video was part of a series which featured TSM's players playing various Vive games, which they claim the team chose themselves.
"Survios, the creators of Raw Data, did not make any financial investment into the production of the video, nor did they approach us to get it made," HTC wrote. "TSM selected Raw Data themselves after reviewing a list of Vive games as they felt it would resonate most with their fans."
HTC did admit that it is logical that Riot does not want LCS pros to bring attention to their competitors. However, they asked for a clarification of what Riot's policies explicitly prohibit. As an example, they asked what the difference is between an LCS player streaming Deus Ex and an LCS player making a YouTube video of them playing a Vive game. According to HTC, those kinds of questions are making it more difficult to justify their sponsorships in the League of Legends space.
"If Riot does not want us making videos that feature our sponsored players playing other games, we do not have many options for showcasing our products," HTC stated.
"Sponsors are now very limited in what we can do to market our brand and products while still supporting the League of Legends scene."
HTC also noted that the r/leagueoflegends subreddit does not allow HTC to post their LoL-themed ads, though Riot has no official affiliation with the subreddit, and their policies are outside of Riot's control.
"As one of the first major non-endemic sponsors in the West, we believe we have helped pioneer marketing in esports, and we’ve loved every second of it," HTC stated. "But with less avenues for advertisement in League of Legends, stemming from the restrictions on the teams and players, restrictions on the subreddit, and the lack of available marketing opportunities at competitions, it is becoming difficult to justify our investments into the scene."
Daniel Rosen is a news editor for theScore esports. You can follow him on Twitter.