As Season 2 rolls down, Riot Games has released a new page on their website for helping streamers find an audience. Titled the “Streamer Portal”, this site looks to centralize the channels of people who produce content with League of Legends, and reward them for having high audiences.
As you can see in the picture above, there’s a fair amount of real estate devoted to large streamers, and opportunities for smaller channels to make their mark, as well.
However, there’s a few caveats to this system: like popular services like Twitch.tv and Own3d.tv, partnership and promotion require a certain viewership before you can get accepted into the program. Summarized in the agreement as “TL;DR”, the main points are:
- Follow the Summoner’s Code
- Give us a way to contact you which works.
- Keep your channel your own, and live.
- Maintain an audience of 1,000,000 or more viewer minutes a month.
- Be fair and considerate of others, and stay focused on making your content better.
- If you advertise your stream as League of Legends, stay focused on our game.
Doing so will put your channel into a number of “tiers” with different benefits. The icon associated with your show changes based on a number of different markers, usually involving how many people are watching your stream. High-population streams get higher tiers of recognition and tools to maintain their stream, as outlined by this image from the Riot site.
And along with these tiers come benefits, which can range from cosmetic to promotional. They can be outlined below, in the linked image (click to enlarge).
Riot, the Kingmaker: Riot is putting themselves in a position where they can pick and choose which streamers to publicize and which to make popular. While some of the community uses things like Reddit and the LoL stream browser Chrome Extension to get their League action, there are thousands who only use official Riot channels for getting information. Though social media and Reddit can make or break a streamer, being promoted by Riot is one way that someone can get a large and permanent audience.
Control the Community, Control the World: In that vein, being able to control the major sources of promotion (and the livelihood) of the community, they can also whip that community into shape. As you can see, one of the major points of the streamer agreement is following the summoner’s code. Riot has a reputation riding on their promotion, and they sure as hell won’t list anyone who screams expletives or wastes their viewers’ time with non-League games. This is very much going to be a “You want the benefits? You’re going to have to play by Riot’s rules” situation.
This includes not being able to stream non-Riot game material, which means “[a]ny content which shows content for a game which is not made by Riot. Some examples of this are: art, discussion posts, videos, in game footage, screenshots, etc.” The document also outlines exact rules for following the Summoner’s Code, and states that streams featured cannot feature (my comments in bold):
- racism, discrimination (gender bias, homophobia, etc), pornography (needed and valid)
- content relating to non-Riot games (does this cover Reddit, posts on a Tumblr dashboard, or reading a Twitter stream?)
- unsportsmanlike behavior (open to interpretation, and I can see this becoming a problem to enforce, especially for streams that thrive on rage and drama)
- behavior that threatens the growth of LoL as an eSport (again, very open to interpretation, and can lead to some weird enforcement issues. Riot’s definition of this – as their business stands to gain the most – can be quite broad)
- behavior that encourages poor behavior in others (again, open to interpretation)
More Streamers, More Problems: My first impression for this portal was a good one, but then it quickly soured. The problem with the current streaming atmosphere is that the players with the highest view counts tend to stay near the top, as when people start new channels, it can take some time for them to get rolling. This won’t exactly be remedied by Riot’s streamer portal, as big ticket streamers will have a higher standing, and get pushed harder. It’s the snowball effect from the game (capitalizing on advantages) and transferring it to another situation.
But Then Again: If a streamer isn’t getting a good audience now, is it Riot’s job to help them? This portal doesn’t actively look to kill the “normal” channels of getting popular; instead, it’s only opening up more League of Legends fans to streams in general. It might make channels more difficult to find, however, if they have to compete with the din of the huge streamers; after all, though, weren’t they doing that already?
The End of the Wild West?
In considering this decision, there’s two schools of thought:
1) This is a good thing for Riot, as they’ll be able to corral the relative disorganization of streamers, regardless of Twitch/Own3d allegiance. They’ll be able to reward people who play nice, and punish people who don’t with penalties to streamers’ earning power. Streamers who are looked favorably by Riot will flourish. The community will become more unified, and the overall exposure to streaming will grow; streamers will have greater access to tools to keep them from being harassed, and a better line to Riot’s ear for prizes/giveaways.
- or -
2) This is a bad thing for eSports, as there will be more competition with arbitrary rules to follow that don’t guarantee success. High-profile streamers may simply snowball their already-considerable lead, and may be treated with lighter hands when punishing. If that last part isn’t true, they will be forced to change their stream tone considerably in order to remain relevant, and possibly alienating their fanbase in the process. Streaming may become gamified, and the quest to get more viewers for perks may supercede creating great content; requiring there to be “coaching content” for certain tiers means people may half-ass it in order to gain an advantage, instead of legitimately wanting to help the community.
This presents a number of pros and cons for each argument, and nothing seems like a clear-cut victory yet. Maybe we need to break out the Venn Diagram.
What do you think about the streamer portal? Let us know in the comments.