In mid-2023, tensions between the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) Players Association (LCSPA) and Riot Games reached a tipping point, instigating a league-wide walkout threat and a list of demands from the LCSPA. The dispute centered on Riot Games' decision to eliminate the requirement for organizations to maintain a tier-two League of Legends roster in the region.
The Controversial Demands of the LCS PA
The LCSPA, in response to this decision, presented a series of requests to Riot Games. Among the requests was a plea for the reinstatement of a "VALORANT-style" relegation and promotion system between the LCS and the North American Challenger League (NACL). The LCSPA believed that this system would grant tier-two organizations—and their players—a chance to ascend into the big leagues and provide necessary incentives for all participating teams to strive for success.
Furthermore, the LCSPA requested that Riot commit to a revenue pool of $300,000 for each NACL team, specifically to be spent on player salaries. They also proposed that LCS organizations should be allowed to partner with other affiliates to help mitigate expenditures by sharing the costs of the roster and coaching staff.
The Association also sought more stability for LCS players and NACL players, pushing for guaranteed minimum contracts for each player who wins the LCS Summer Finals. They advocated for a new continuity rule that would give three out of five players on released NACL rosters first priority in maintaining their spot on the team, contingent on a majority continuing to compete alongside each other.
The Threat of a Walkout
These requests came to a head on Sunday, May 28, when all 50 players in the LCS were to vote on whether or not they should stage a walkout in protest of the extensive NACL changes. The potential walkout represented not only a threat to many players and coaches possibly losing their jobs that summer, but also put the future of the region in question without organizations supporting the pipeline to the major league.
The heated moments were exacerbated by the imminent start of the 2023 LCS Summer Split on Thursday, June 1, leaving less than a week for the league and the Players Association to reach an agreement on each individual term.
Prominent Esports Figures Cast Doubts on LCSPA's Motives
The situation was further complicated by the involvement of prominent esports figures, such as IWillDominate and Thoorin, who openly questioned the competence and intentions of the LCSPA. They expressed concerns about the perceived lack of transparency from the Players Association and how their demands might impact the future of the LCS and its players. IWillDominate and Thoorin, both being deeply involved in the esports scene, were worried about whether the LCSPA truly represented the best interests of the players, or if other motives were at play. Their skepticism cast a shadow over the negotiations, adding another layer of complexity to the issue and further dividing the community's opinion.
In the midst of this turbulence, the situation with Doublelift added fuel to the fire. Known for his outspoken nature, Doublelift took to social media to air his grievances, criticizing the decisions of both Riot Games and the LCSPA. His views, heavily influenced by his experiences as a former professional player, represented a significant segment of the player community who felt overlooked and neglected in the unfolding events. Doublelift's criticism highlighted the disconnect between the decisions made by the organizations and the lived experiences of the players themselves, underscoring the need for a more player-centric approach to resolving the dispute.
These developments underscore the importance of open dialogue and transparency between all parties involved in the esports industry. The events surrounding the LCSPA and Riot Games highlight the complex dynamics at play in the rapidly growing esports scene, reminding all stakeholders of the need for mutual understanding, effective communication, and a shared commitment to the well-being of the players.
Riot Games' Response
However, after a period of negotiation, Riot Games issued an open letter in response to the LCSPA's requests, acknowledging the need for change and pledging to take steps to improve the situation. They committed to "work with the LCSPA and all parties involved to ensure the best possible future for our players and the League." Riot Games' response emphasized their dedication to creating a positive, sustainable environment for professional League of Legends play and underscored their commitment to the esports community