Iranian and Syrian players received an unwelcome surprise recently when they tried logging into Riot Games’ League of Legends, as the game has been blocked in their countries.
The full message reads:
Due to U.S. laws and regulations, players in your country cannot access League of Legends at this time. Such restrictions are subject to change by the U.S. government, so if and when that happens, we look forward to having you back on the Rift.
The regulations in question are the various economic sanctions the US imposed on Iran in recent years. This particular move comes soon after tensions between the two nations have increased still further when the Trump administration accused Iran of shooting down an unmanned drone in international airspace and reportedly aborted airstrikes planned in retaliation.
There have been many instances, even recently, where a game is banned in a country for social reasons, such as PUBG being banned in Iraq, Nepal, and China. However, this is the first time a video game has ever been affected by economic sanctions and current political issues.
Some players expressed their surprise and disappointment on LoL‘s forums, with one poster saying “IRAN is one of big EUW League Communities. there are a lot of players here and now they can’t play the game [sic].”
The original Dot Esports piece on the topic blames the government for the decision, as do some posters on the LoL forums. But that’s not quite accurate since this is a company decision, not something directly forced by the US government or implemented by the Iranian government.
The BBC spoke about Riot’s sudden decision with Joseph Finn, a London-based sanctions advisor for an insurance broker. According to Finn, Riot is basically playing it safe by blocking Iran and Syria.
Riot has to report its earnings every year to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which could flag money Riot earns through subscriptions and payments from Iranian and Syrian players. Technically, a U.S. company would be doing business with a nation in violation of economic sanctions.
Other recent instances of blocked games were cleared up with relative speed. However, with a new round of sanctions set to be imposed on Iran soon, it’s unclear when or if Riot will repeal this decision and allow Iranian and Syrian players access to League of Legends.