In a lengthy video posted Tuesday morning, OGN LoL caster and Renegades co-owner Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles weighed in on the debate that has broken out between LCS team owners and Riot Games about how teams and players earn revenue in LoL esports.
MonteCristo, whose LCS team was forced to disband earlier this year after Riot ruled it had inappropriate connections with Chris Badawi and Team Dragon Knights, was not shy about his frustration with how Riot's current policies have affected organizations' ability to generate revenue and pay their players.
"There has been no sponsorship revenue sharing for the league," he said. "The sponsors are tapped out. The endemic sponsors, they're not going to give any more money for League of Legends. Most teams are losing money, maybe one or two teams are making a razor-thin profit from LCS."
He claimed that Riot's policies about how and where an organization's sponsors can be featured has not only limited investments made by current sponsors, but has also made the LCS an unattractive option for potential new entrants.
The debate over how Riot's esports policies have affected team owners and outside investors broke into the public spotlight yesterday when Riot co-owner Marc "Tryndamere" Merrill replied to an interview with Team SoloMid co-owner Andy "Reginald" Dinh.
Reginald argued in the interview that Riot's decision to release a major patch after the LCS regular season, but ahead of playoffs and the World Championship, has hurt the high-level competitive environment. He said the constant reinvention of the game makes it hard for players to find consistent, healthy employment with a competitive organization.
Tryndamere countered in a written response on Reddit that Reginald had the power to decide how his players were reimbursed, and accused him of shifting profits to investments in other esports rather than paying more for LoL players.
MonteCristo rebuked Tryndamere in his video, saying that the money team owners use to pay players is ultimately controlled by Riot and that, in situations where Riot already provides money to players, they've chosen not to increase that amount.
"Maybe if you're concerned with the financial health of the players, Tryndamere, you should pay them more money," he said. "Maybe you should raise a stipend. You haven't raised a stipend for the players since 2013."
The Renegades owner argued that the rules surrounding sponsorships need to change to enable more outside investment, and that Riot should consider a revenue-sharing proposal that would see teams and players benefit from Riot's sponsorships. His video doesn't go into detail about what a solution might look like.
MonteCristo also claimed that the threat of relegation already forces teams to offer as much as they can to acquire the best players, so that they do not lose their LCS spot and forfeit their investment. "In a system where relegations exist, teams will always be trying to pay the players the maximum amount that makes sense, because otherwise you lose everything," he said.
He called Riot and Tryndamere hypocrites, claiming that they were telling teams to spend more on players while underpaying their own broadcast talent. MonteCristo and his fellow OGN casters have raised the issue of unfair treatment by Riot in the past, for example when they boycotted the Mid-Season Invitational for allegedly offering substandard wages. In a Tweet Monday morning, he said the current debate gave him more reason to believe a caster's union is needed.
In Tryndamere's original Reddit post, which he later edited, he suggested that Reginald and TSM were "losing money" by investing in other esports. MonteCristo attacked this statement in his video, saying there was no way for Riot to know whether teams were turning a profit from titles like Counter-Strike or Overwatch. (Renegades has an active roster in CS:GO.)
"I don't know how Riot got this idea," he said. "They never asked me, as a team owner, how I was doing, where my sponsorship money was coming from. And I would have told them that — for me personally and I think this is true for a lot of teams — that sponsorship in CS:GO and the potential of Overwatch was much more exciting for sponsors. And it was getting increasingly difficult to field good sponsorships and make good money off of an LCS team."
MonteCristo took special issue with a section of Tryndamere's response in which he separated teams into those with "good guy" owners like Reginald, and others at the "bottom end of the ecosystem."
"I hate this about Riot," he said. "They’re like some sort of f***ed-up, tyrant Santa Claus, where you get put on the naughty or nice list for all-time, and they decide ‘he is good, he is bad. I guess Regi’s one of the good guys. I don’t really know what that means in this context."
MonteCristo is unlikely to be the last to weigh in on the debate. Reginald posted a full response to Tryndamere's comments Tuesday, and commentator Duncan "Thorin" Shields has promised a video response in the near future.
Josh "Gauntlet" Bury kindly asks you not to feed the Volibear. You can find him on Twitter.