While the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic put esports in the spotlight, it had the opposite effect on tournaments and events. Fewer tournaments equal less money for companies, which results in contracts being cut.
What are the contracts in question?
The two contracts making the rounds on news websites are those of Eefje “Sjokz” Depoortere and Indiana “Froskurinn” Black.
Sjokz was an on-air talent and a prominent voice in international tournaments for both League of Legends and CS:GO. Her latest contribution to League of Legends was during the Worlds 2020 tournament, where she reportedly received a mixed reception from the audience.
Froskurinn was an analyst and color caster in the League of Legends European Championship broadcasts. She also announced on Twitter that her contract with Riot Games had ended similarly to Sjokz’s.
Both hosts were mainstays in the League of Legends space with extensive contributions recognized by the game’s community.
Why is this a big deal for viewership?
Since the two hosts were a big part of the on-air LEC talent community, viewers of those tournaments expect to hear them whenever they tune in. If these hosts become freelance, there is a high chance that they will make their way to other esports games. Sjokz has experience as a CS:GO caster, so she might find a full-time position in CS:GO as opposed to League of Legends.
Sjokz has been a caster for League of Legends tournaments since 2013 with Froskurinn joining her three years later in 2016. Both have been present in every Worlds tournament since they joined, so it is easy to see why they became mainstays in the League of Legends scene.
It is not unheard of for fans to stop watching a certain tournament if their favorite caster is not present. The role of casters is to help the viewers understand what is happening on screen through commentary. They are also the ones who interview players and coaches after matches. Each caster has their own style and charisma, which is how they built their fan bases. If the fan-favorite casters are absent, that could mean a massive hit in viewership for Riot Games.
How does this affect Riot’s future?
Even though both of these casters have now become freelancers, it is not yet known if that is the route that Riot plans to take. If all of them become freelance and begin working for other game companies, Riot could lose the identity it has established in terms of their casters.
If the casters are rehired by Riot on a freelance basis, they will likely be paid less than if they were under contract. This could spark up theories about Riot being financially unstable, which could also harm the company’s reputation. It’s all a slippery slope.
Being freelance means many things for anyone involved in esports. It leads to less job security since freelancers are not tied by contract to a single company or organization. This would be a problem for anyone else, but these casters already have established fan bases and are well-known within the esports world. Other companies would be wise to take advantage of that and hire them, leading to numerous opportunities even if they are freelance.
The second part of being a freelance caster is that they are not locked to a single esports title and can move around as they wish. As previously mentioned, Sjokz already has experience in CS:GO and has said that she would be open to opportunities in that game. Froskurinn spent her game in League of Legends, but that does not mean her skills are not applicable in other games that have tournament casters.
Being a freelancer is not such a bad option when you’re well-known. While their future in esports is unknown, it will be interesting to see how they decide to use their skills and what will happen to the other Riot casters in the future, considering the company’s decision Sjokz and Froskurinn.