The Black Market for League of Legends Accounts – Why is this still an issue?

     “The Account supplied to you is personal to you, and Riot Games does not recognize and expressly forbids the transfer of user Accounts. You shall not purchase, sell, gift or trade any Account, or make any such offer, and any attempt shall be null and void. Any distribution by you of your Account and/or your Login Credentials (except as expressly provided herein or otherwise explicitly approved of by Riot Games) may result in suspension or termination of your Account.”

Sounds really simple and clear-cut, doesn’t it? An acquired account suffers the risk of being terminated, not to mention the buyer being scammed before even reaching the point of ownership. Why is the market for League of Legends accounts so vast then? Currently you can find “account-sellers” everywhere, starting inside the game client itself – on specially designated chat-rooms, followed by internet auctions like eBay, continuing on community sites that direct you towards portals dedicated to that sole purpose. Unranked ones start around 10-15€, the amount of champions increases the price slowly, limited-time skins and rune pages add some further value just to hit the big value jumps of different divisions. Diamond 1 accounts with huge sums of Influence Points and nothing to spend them on anymore can reach even 4-digit numbers. Right at the end of Season 3, 2000€ auctions were not only appearing but often ended successfully. All forbidden yet all so popular, I will skip the fruity analogy, you get the point.

accounts_ebayAn average day on eBay, hundreds of dollars change hands through account sales

Why would you buy an account?

There are couple of reasons that might push someone to buy an account, time is definitely a huge factor here. Levelling your own one can take ages, especially for an average Joe who works 8-hour shifts, goes out with friends for a “cold one” every now and then and watches regular sports. Grinding those games may look much less enjoyable for him than unlocking everything with a credit card. Then there’s frustration – losing your third promotion to a higher division, feeling like luck has abandoned you completely and no matter how good you are you can not reach your desired position in the rankings. Spending months of allowance to finally claim to be “plat five” can be a strong aphrodisiac and the frustration reliever you urgently need. This precedent drills into the League culture even deeper, how often have you seen players claiming someone that has a bad game has bought an account from eBay? In most cases those are clearly insults thrown without any serious weight attached but what if every now and then they actually hit the mark? In an era of simplification the idea of not accomplishing your goal, especially in a computer game, might be unacceptable for some individuals. So how much do I have on my PayPal, hmm…

accounts_queueDiamond and Challenger level streamers deal with even longer queues daily

Tricky selling

“I’m only selling my time spent to move the account to it’s current state. The account is owned by Riot Games.” - might be the most popular phrase I have come across while searching for offers on large internet-auction sites. Trying hard to “cheat the system”, sellers invent some pretty interesting ways to save their offers from being removed straight away. My personal favourite would definitely have to be: “Selling a piece of paper that may contain information on how to access an account”. Pretty ridiculous? Yes. Does it work? Sadly, yes. It does however impair the trust between both sides, this is where the middleman business takes its toll. Securing the transaction’s safety and keeping both side satisfied for as little as 10$, the middlemen are a by-product of the account markets. Obviously you can skip that step and ask a Magic 8-Ball if you are about to be scammed or not but after learning that some of those people have over 2000 transactions on their resume the doubts may push you to acquire the service they provide pretty quickly. 10$ extra when spending few hundred “bucks” on a Diamond encrusted (or ranked, whichever you prefer) account seems more than fair to appease your nerves, doesn’t it?

accounts_scamScam or a sophisticated way of avoiding getting caught?

Lack of alternative

League of Legends server segregation never really worked, especially in Europe, where an overwhelming majority of the competitive scene occupies EUW, instead of being split between the respective region servers. We all have friends from different region to ours, that we would love to have a game with once in a while. Personally I would prefer not to spend Riot Points, thus real money, to do so every few days on my main account. Making a “smurf” as the only “legal” alternative doesn’t solve the problem either, just turns it into a couple of different ones. The idea of spending countless hours to level up an account that I may not even use more than a few times a month sends an unpleasant shiver down my spine. Adding the risk of ruining the “newbie environment” (which exists now, a year ago and even 2 years ago) turns an already bad situation into a an even worse one.

accounts_smurfNo matter what you pick, you will be matched against low level accounts

Blizzard found the remedy?

Every long-running game will sooner or later start feeling the aftermath of its expansion. MMORPGs like World of Warcraft suffer enormously because of how that genre is structured, with a clear early and end-game. To keep the “frequent player” involved developers steer the direction of subsequent expansions to satisfy the end-game dwellers. The more time you spend there, the less you feel motivated to start over and repeat the whole progress. MOBAs, as a genre, are not affected by that phenomenon so vastly, it does however apply. Imagine starting the journey with League of Legends at this exact moment, how long do you think would take you earning enough Influence Points to purchase all champions (roughly 450.000 IP), not to mention runes and rune pages. Blizzard reached out to their WoW customers with a “boost” system, allowing them to skip the levelling part and directly dive into the new content (to level 80 at first, now level 90). Obviously, an angry mob with torches and pitchforks will start chanting “pay-to-win” limericks (which isn’t the worst thing an angry mob can do) and to some extent they may be right. However, doing nothing about the current situation will only increase eagerness of coders to write better “farming” bots and discover quicker ways to obtain their market product.

accounts_wowPay-to-win or a helping hand?

Lesser of two evils

An Unranked level 30 account on either North American or European servers can cost about as much as a new champion skin (975RP ~7-8€) right now. With how much money the average player pumps into new outfits it would suggest that they do not have a problem with spending money on this particular hobby. Why not make the “smurf” idea legal then? Even if the price would be higher than offers from the “shady dealers” I would gladly spend a little more just to play on an equal ground with my friends around the globe and not be matched against level 15 players to spoil the fun for both them and myself. Adding an option to acquire a smurf after reaching level thirty would help in solving that issue in my humble opinion, hopefully not with a Blizzard’s price-range but one adjusted to League of Legends customers. What about the “XP boosts”? When a man screws up he buys flowers for his lady, let’s just say Riot is the man and flowers are the boosts in that story, compensating server instabilities etc. this is the only time these boosts should ever be really used – they’re really not impactful enough to prevent people from buying a smurf account – it still takes 80~ games with double exp boosts, that’s like two to three days of straight winning.

In the end we are talking about the unranked accounts here, not high-up in the ladder ones, those should not be sold by anyone ever. The problem actually exists and I have not seen Riot addressing it enough (or at all), so why not kill two birds with one stone? Would there be any misuses of this system? Sure, but the system is being openly mocked at this exact moment anyway. Let’s not fall into a pit of bot-farming, account selling and rank-boosting hole every successful MMORPG ever has been pushed into. We’re slowly getting closer to the edge, as Jared Leto says in a 30 Seconds to Mars hit with the same title (I might be misinterpreting the song slightly), and the situation won’t solve itself miraculously, it might be a good time to react.

accounts_summer_salePromotions and loyalty programs are slowly starting to appear on the “black market”

Pros of implementing linked smurf accounts

Having the option to legally purchase a fresh level 30 account linked to your “main” one would definitely solve a number of small, yet irritating, problems. No more “grind” for veteran player and streamers who can not stand long queues, a way to play with friends from different servers without the need to worry about being matched with complete newbies, decrease in “scams” in the account selling area and even “clean starts” for ranked ladder for individuals who feel that luck (or the Gods of RNG) has not been kind to them. Those are just a couple reasons why I truly believe this system could do wonders for the League of Legends community. It also opens new possibilities for customized accounts: Marksmen Account Bundles, AP Casters Account Bundle etc., all available in the in-game shop for a fair price in Riot Points. You feel like you want to reach your dream tier with a specific role only? There would be ways to do so. Maybe you want to compete in a tournament hosted in another region to better your team? Easy solution would be at a hands reach. Linked “smurfs” would also make it easier to punish misbehaving players more accurately by preventing them from periodically rotating between accounts that aren’t punished and repeating the same acts that got them banned in the first place. Pay-to-win? No. Simply a helping hand directed at the League of Legends community. Account markets make a lot of money, why not turn that flow into someone that can realistically improve our game experience? I know what I would pick, if I had the choice.

  • Anonymous

    wow, all the god damn rankeds would be spammed with smurfs then :P