While plenty of us have been rooting for our favorite teams in the Overwatch League, a few questions lingered about the makeup of the competitive league. After the Dallas Fuel suspended and fined Felix “xQc” Lengyel for derogatory comments that breached the league’s code of conduct, what code players had to actually follow was unclear.
Yesterday, however, esports journalist Richard Lewis leaked what he’s calling the official Overwatch Rulebook, which outlines many of the stipulations and procedures players and teams must abide by in order to be part of the league. Looking over the rulebook, there’s some standard stuff and some not-so-standard stuff.
There are of course, the must-haves: Players can’t endorse any kind of tobacco, “cannabis,” pornography, gambling, firearms, alcohol, illegal activity, or endorse any political candidate. Using obscene gestures during streams or matches, which is also a given, I suppose. There’s also a blanket policy against discrimination against anyone for their race, religion, gender or gender identify, and so on. Which again: fair. But a few of the odder restrictions players, managers, coaches, and “other full-time employees of any team” must agree to, however, include:
- Not being able to stream with more than one other player from the league (as doing so would constitute, under the contract, playing as part of a “team”) without the approval of the league.
- Playing only in a game’s standard modes (no hopping into custom game servers or using cheats). This also applies to non-Activision Blizzard games.
- Not being able to use a name that references any Activision Blizzard character while playing non-Activision Blizzard games.
- Not being able to participate in any kind of organized competitive play for any game.
- Using only the most up-to-date version of any game they’re playing.
- Not being able to “directly or indirectly endorse the playing or purchase of any non-Activision Blizzard game in any manner.”
- Not being able to criticize any Activision Blizzard games or question the legitimacy of the Overwatch League or any of its matches.
We should note, however, that Lewis mentions the rule about multiple players streaming together has since been altered due to player feedback.
Another stipulation of the league is that it owns the rights to its players’ likenesses and more. In fact, the Overwatch League can create reality shows based on individual players or teams, and the players won’t be given royalties. If a player wants to dispute any part of the agreement or aspect of the League, they’ll have to settle it solely through arbitration with the League itself, and cannot engage in class-action suits of any kind.
We’ve reached out to Blizzard regarding the rulebook and will update this article should they reply.
Considering the stakes of the Overwatch League (team buy-ins measure in millions of dollars), it’s not surprising to see it have such an iron grip on its players. But that doesn’t mean it’s good. As much as I’ve enjoyed parts of the League, there’s no denying it feels like one big ad for Overwatch. Of course, many pro tournaments are, but with restrictions like these, it makes the League less about passion and more about produce. Also, the likeness rights part is particularly rough for players, as any breakout star from the League likely won’t see royalties out any documentary or film deal that might emerge.