Riot Games have banned 40% of players in the Oceanic Challenger Series, predominantly for cases of elo boosting and account sharing. Elo boosting is a negative trend that will remain within the scene for as long as players require additional means to top up their income outside of their professional eSports salaries (if they even have one). Riot’s recent changes to the Mid-Season Invitational and the 2017 World Championships may serve to increase involvement outside of the major regions, a step in the right direction to cultivate global growth.
Riot Games has brought down the ban hammer on Oceania. With one mighty swing, they disqualified almost half of the players for elo boosting services and toxic in-game behaviour. In total, 16 out of 40 players were banned from play with penalties ranging from two weeks to the entire 2017 competitive season.
Elo Boosting is not a new issue for Riot Games, but it is one they take very seriously. Former NA LCS Mid laner Yu “XiaoWeiXiao” Xian was famously banned from competitive play at the prime of his playing career and never was able to return. For many players, elo boosting is a viable method of supplementing their insubstantial earnings. In the Oceanic region for example, it can often be more profitable than a career as a professional player.
Whilst XiaoWeiXiao was able to make a decent salary playing for a team in the NA LCS, those opportunities are few and far between outside of the five major regions (NA, EU, SEA, Korea, and China). Players face a dilemma of a career that requires full-time investment without full-time pay, and so often they look for other means of income to allow them to pursue their dreams.
The recent ban waves shows that there is still a lot of work to do for League of Legends to provide a plausible career for players in many regions. Increased investment into teams from these neglected regions will increase the quality of gameplay; not only providing players in their pro leagues with a reasonable wage, but also strengthening the challenger scenes.
Riot Games took a step in the right direction with their changes to MSI and the World Championship format. This year, they have eliminated the International Wild Card Tournament and are instead allowing all 13 regions to participate in both events through a Play-In Stage.
Where before, only two teams from a wild card region would have the chance to play, now all eight will have their moment in the spotlight. This should open opportunities for more Cinderella stories like that of Albus Nox Luna.
By allowing participation from all the respective regions, Riot Games are increasing the opportunities for exposure to these teams, in time increasing their quality and profitability. Sponsors are more likely to put their name on a jersey that will be viewed on an international level. Players are more likely to pursue a career if there is greater opportunity for international recognition.
It is going to take time, but the changes to the MSI and Worlds are a sign that League of Legends is on the right track to continue to promote growth globally. While incidences like those in the Oceanic Challenger Scene are still a vivid reminder of the financial struggles face by the players of minor regions, there is hope in the fact that League of Legends, and eSports as a whole, have continued to grow at a rapid pace.