Riot Games Forms Governance Over “League of Legends” Collegiate Division
With the recent NCAA ruling deciding not to institute guidelines for esports, Riot Games is creating its own governance over its LoL, “League of Legends”, collegiate division. As the publisher of LoL, Riot Games will be overseeing the new governing body as a separate division. The overall question is, who will be in charge of regulating collegiate esports? As a result of the NCAA’s decision to stay out of collegiate esports, the game publishers themselves will continue to maintain supervision over their own games.
The decision to not govern the collegiate LoL league was based on study where the results only strengthened the different perspectives of the NCAA vs that of Riot. NCAA’s BOG, Board of Governors, voted on the final decision as of last October.
This decision to abstain from involvement stemmed from a number of rising issues between the two entities. A major portion of this decision results from the NCAA being “skeptical that esports qualified as an athletic endeavor,” Ben Fischer and Michael Smith of SBJ Daily note. Additionally, Thomas Baker of the Law in Sport publication states that “there is reason to question whether the NCAA and its members will see collegiate esports as worthy of investment if third-party game producers control the competitions and the bulk of the monies generated therefrom. Initially, game producers supported esports competitions as means for generating and maintaining interest in their commercial video game products. However, the industry of esports has now grown to the point that the competitions themselves are valuable and potentially profitable properties.”
NCAA’s Amateurism laws also posed as a sizeable hindrance for the esports community. “The problem for the NCAA is that consumers of esports have no foundation for valuing amateurism so there no legal basis for its preservation within collegiate esports,” states Thomas Baker of Law in Sport. “In an NCAA Board of Governors meeting last month, esports stakeholders also expressed concern regarding NCAA amateurism laws, which would restrict players’ ability to win prize money or earn ad revenue or donations through online streaming,” remarks Thomas Lace of Esports Insider. With the booming presence of esports and the competition that surrounds it, incentives such as prize money and donations are valuable to its players and companies. As far as profit is concerned, there are large gaps between the backgrounds of game producers such as Riot Games fostering a for-profit environment and the nonprofit background of NCAA’s colleges and universities (Thomas Baker, Law in Sport).
Because of the two very polarizing business strategies and organizational structure of esports game publishers and the NCAA, finding the harmony between the two would have been quite a feat.
What does this mean for the structure of collegiate LoL?
Although Riot will be governing over the collegiate league, they will not be following the same structure. “The pro esports leagues involve freestanding, independently capitalized team businesses that control their own rights and assets. But a mature college esports scene will require buy-in from schools, their campus constituencies and conferences and coordination across bureaucracies” Ben Fischer and Michael Smith of SBJ Daily report. “Professional esports players are typically sponsored by companies affiliated with video games, including game developers and game-controller manufacturers, and the players compete for multimillion-dollar prizes. Conservative estimates project that the global esports market will be a $1.5 billion industry by 2020 (billions less than other national pro sports)” notes Caroline Knorr of the Washington Post.
With the rise of collegiate esports in the past few years, smaller and larger schools alike have an incredible window of opportunity to participate in this competitive arena despite the structure differences from the professional leagues. Michael Brooks, Executive Director of NACE (National Association of Collegiate Esports), recognizes that, “most programs are going to monetize based off of student participation, sponsorships, alumni support, boosters, and donations…a heavy reliance on sponsors and alumni support.”
While definitive details have not yet been discussed, Riot’s new division of collegiate esports will be structured similarly to its 13 pro-leagues like LCS and LEC, including “an external advisory board made up of college sports and higher education experts,” says Thomas Lace of Esports Insider.
Could Riot’s LoL Collegiate league resemble that of Tespa’s collegiate league for Overwatch ?
With Riot’s new collegiate league underway, let’s take a look at a possible parallel of Overwatch’s collegiate league run through Tespa. Tespa is a collegiate esports organization established at The University of Texas at Austin, dedicated to event support networking. Currently partnered with Blizzard Entertainment, Tespa sponsors over 200 U.S. esports gaming clubs at colleges, according to other sources. “Similar to how Blizzard is formalizing city-based teams with the Overwatch League, Tespa uses collegiate affiliations as a gateway to getting people interested in esports,” expresses Stephanie Chan of Venture Beat. This collaboration between the two entities could be a possible avenue for Riot Games to follow with their LoL collegiate league. Paired with the fresh knowledge and experience of a gaming networking club such as Tespa, Riot’s new collegiate division could skyrocket with a partnership similar to that of Overwatch and Tespa.