Earlier today it was announced by Christopher "MonteCristo" Mykles, Erik "DoA" Lonnquist and Christopher "PapaSmithy" Smith that they would not be attending the 2016 Mid-Season Invitational due to a failure to come to an agreement on contract terms. The three casters currently work for Ongamenet in South Korea, where each commentate various games, most notably the English cast of Riot Games' League of Leagues Championship Korea.
"After all of us received invitations and negotiated with Riot Games to join the broadcast crew for this year's Mid-Season Invitational, we failed to arrive at an industry standard rate for our services and therefore cannot work as casters in Shanghai," they wrote in their joint statement.
The Mid-Season Invitational, considered Riot's second-biggest tournament of the year behind the world championships in the fall, will consist of the champions from the five major regions and a wild-card team from one of the smaller, budding regions around the world. The two-week event will be held in Shanghai this upcoming May.
Generally in esports, casters are signed as freelancers, like the three from OGN. They are signed for an event, do their work, and then continue working with other tournaments or even different games. It's different when you look at the landscape of League of Legends, as Riot Games have full-time contracts with casting talent in North America, Europe, and even a fledgling region like Oceania.
This allows Riot the ability to forgo freelance casters like Mykles or Lonnquist. The Mid-Season Invitational will have enough casters to do the event -- Riot-employed casters such as Martin "Deficio" Lynge and Joshua "Jatt" Leesman are as good as they come when it comes to commentating in League.
The issue with the absence of the OGN casters has more to do with Riot's league structure than anything else. In games like Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, there are no separate leagues for European, Asian and North American teams. They compete in the same circuit year-round, and the casters are able to study these teams on a steady basis as they are all grouped up together.
With League, you have five major regions (NA, EU, China, Korea and Taiwan), 10 or more smaller regions rising through the ranks, and countries like Japan getting a server every few months. So when it comes to knowing about the teams, the players and the storylines, you need experts from each of these regions to be involved if you want the best product possible. Even though the European-focused Lynge and North American-focused Leesman are knowledgeable when it comes to other regions, it's an impossible task to have them be well-versed in every region.
Riot, due to having casters under contract, doesn't necessarily need the Korean casters. Will it hurt the overall product? Yes, but they have people under their umbrella who can do, or at least attempt to do, the job.
But the same can be said for Mykles, Lonnquist, and Smith. They don't need Riot. They don't need League. All three have commentated different games, and due to having the flexibility with their employer at OGN, they will continue to do so in the future. Mykles has over 200,000 followers on Twitter, Lonnquist has embedded himself as one of the most recognizable voices in esports with his play-by-play calls, and Smith is continuing to grow his brand since joining the two established casters in South Korea last year.
The three of them declining Riot and telling them they won't cast MSI isn't something petty. After doing research on what other freelance commentators received in other major titles, they decided to not take an offer that was well below the standard average.
Why can they do this?
How can they stand up to the current king of esports in Riot Games?
Because esports isn't just League of Legends. It's the biggest game in the world, but if you can get paid for your talents better in another game, why wouldn't you go somewhere else? Mykles started as a Warcraft 3 caster; Lonnquist commentated StarCraft: II before joining the LCK commentary team. Their careers were around before League became the centerpiece of esports, and their careers will certainly continue after it's no longer the center of the esports world.