Riot Games in talks to assume control of LoL tournaments in China

by theScore Staff Sep 8 2015
Thumbnail image courtesy of Kelsey Moser / LPL

UPDATE: Whalen "Riot Magus" Rozelle commented on the report on the League of Legends subreddit. He confirmed that talks with Tencent are ongoing and addressed concerns within the thread regarding tournament format, local broadcast flavor (such as cosplay), third party tournaments, and underage players.

Magus explained that the main motivation for initiating talks with Tencent include aligning regulation with leagues internationally and improving the broadcast. He stated that there are no plans to bring the best-of-one format to China, and that the Demacia Cup will return in 2016. He also said that there are no plans to penalize current players who fall below the age limit of 17 for the rule change and listed a grandfather clause as one of the solutions to this issue.

ORIGINAL STORY: Riot Games is in talks to assume responsibility for tournament licensing in China, especially of the League of Legends Pro League (LPL), multiple sources have told theScore eSports. Currently, Tencent Games licenses League of Legends tournaments and distributes League of Legends' game client in China. PLU, a media and gaming company in China, runs the LPL tournament and production with Tencent’s consent.

Sources tell theScore eSports that if Riot does assume control, that they are likely to regulate the LPL and produce the broadcast as well. At the moment, the League of Legends Association of Chinese Esports (LACE) are responsible for most league regulations and have cooperated with Tencent and Riot in the past in creating rules such as the single ownership policy.

According to several sources, Riot’s main objective is in keeping rules and restrictions uniform with the North American and European LCS as well as the LCK in Korea. For example, the LPL currently allows players aged 16 and over to participate, while LCS and LCK set the age limit at 17. Players like Royal Never Give Up’s mid laner Li “xiaohu” Yuanhao, who is currently 16 and won’t turn 17 until after the LPL resumes in the spring, would be affected should this come to fruition.

The main topic under discussion is the possibility that third party tournaments involving LPL teams in China, such as the National Electronic Sports Tournament and Demacia Cup, will not continue in 2016. Tencent authorizes multiple third party tournaments to which LPL teams are invited, especially during the winter offseason following the World Championship. Should Riot assume full control of tournament licensing, it's unclear whether these events will continue.

Sources have told theScore eSports that one motivating factor that initiated these talks between Tencent and Riot was Tencent’s decision to authorize a women's league without Riot’s consent. Some organizations owning teams in the league have begun investing more for another round of the league and have even contracted some Korean women. It is said, however, that this is likely only one small part of the reason Riot China has initiated these talks with Tencent.

PLU are allegedly looking to cooperate with other companies administering or streaming tournaments in China and focus on their new streaming platform, Longzhu, to search for opportunities outside the LPL, according to multiple sources.

LPL caster wawa, who has been casting the league since it began in 2013, told his viewers while streaming that he will be leaving PLU. He later confirmed his departure on weibo. wawa stated that PLU wanted to hire other casters, and there was some disagreement, but he may still cast the LPL in the future. wawa is the second LPL caster to announce his departure from PLU recently. Changmao, a popular caster originally from Taiwan, left PLU a month ago. These departures may be unrelated, but they have increased speculation within the Chinese speaking community that PLU might not be responsible for broadcasting LPL next year.

When asked about the situation, PLU representatives would not verify or deny any information provided in this report, only that “nothing has been decided” concerning next year's broadcast.

theScore eSports reached out to Riot Games regarding the matter, but they declined to comment.

To clarify, no sources reported that a change to the LPL format itself is being discussed. If plans are being made to alter the league structure, theScore eSports has no knowledge of them.

Kelsey Moser is a staff writer for theScore eSports. You can follow her on Twitter.