It's not as grand an event as the month-long affair that is the League Championship Series finals, but Riot's Mid-Season Invitational is still a focal point of the League of Legends calendar. It acts as the glue between League's Summer and Spring seasons, with US$100,000 on offer for the eventual winner.
The smaller scale doesn't reduce the importance of the event for casters, however. But in a post this morning, three of the most recognisable contributors to the English broadcast announced they won't be participating due to substandard freelancing rates.
The post was jointly signed by Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles, Erik “DoA” Lonnquist and Australia's Christopher “PapaSmithy” Smith, three of the scene's more respected commentators. But in a joint post on Medium, the trio explained they wouldn't be casting the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) because Riot was offering, in their terms, "far below industry standard for 2016."
"We set out at the beginning of this year to determine average freelance rates in the eSports market and conducted a survey of contracts received by casters across titles including Counter Strike: Global Offensive, DotA 2, Starcraft 2, Halo 5, and Hearthstone," the casters explain.
"We were surprised to discover from our peers that Riot’s offer to us was approximately 40% to 70% of the rate received by talent for major events in all of these titles. We shared these rates with Riot in the hope of reaching an agreement commensurate with the market but, while they offered a nominal increase, their deal remained far below industry standard for 2016."
The three casters expressed their thanks to Riot for the interest, but said that as freelancers they rely on appearance fees for their livelihood and could not agree to terms that would effectively devalue their careers.
"Since we are freelancers and not Riot employees, we rely on these contracts for our income and feel that we would damage our careers in the long term by accepting below-market rates. Furthermore, by agreeing to a significantly lower wage we fear that we may contribute to the regression of standards for freelance casters in the industry as a whole."
I've reached out to Riot's local team for comment, but had not heard back at the time of writing.