The idea behind roster locks was sensible when the rules were put together. Valve cannot sell stickers for a player, only to have him representing a different team by the time of the major, or even worse, not even attending anymore. You want to protect yourself from something like that.
But what happened at MLG Columbus proved the rule does not work. When Jacob “pyth” Mourujärvi was unable to travel to the U.S., there was nothing Valve could do about it. Nothing. Ninjas in Pyjamas simply played with their coach – which at the time was the best possible outcome in a bad situation – but the roster lock rule in no way helped in this scenario.
Months later, Astralis swapped René “cajunb” Borg for Markus “Kjaerbye” Kjærbye ahead of ESL One Cologne 2016. Kjaerbye’s team, Dignitas, had begun the qualification process for the major, and he was not allowed to play with Astralis in Cologne. But Astralis were Legends, and cajunb had not played any qualifier matches, and therefore was allowed to play with Dignitas. As such, paying Astralis fans went to Cologne disappointed.
SK cut ties with Lincoln “fnx” Lau this week, and with the qualifiers all but over for the ELEAGUE Major in January, they are almost guaranteed to have to pick up a placeholder player – for example, their ECS Season 2 Finals stand-in Ricardo “fox” Pacheco – until the roster locks open and they can start bidding up Immortals players’ contracts.
Or, you know, whoever’s.
Roster locks do not make the rosters, or the scene, more stable. All the same changes are still happening, but the repercussions are worse for the spectators, who make this esport run.
It is the fans who now miss out on SK truly defending their title at the Major, the fans who had to watch an already-dead TSM roster at the minor this weekend, the fans who had to watch Astralis with a stand-in in Cologne…
…when we could see SK trading fnx and a bag of money for felps, watched Sean “sg@res” Gares and Shahzeb “ShahZaM” Khan play with TSM at the minor, and could have watched Astralis with Kjaerbye in Cologne.
And for what?
To hold onto an arbitrary rule, made up with one purpose in mind, one which it so clearly is not fulfilling. If the goal of the rule was to accomplish a more stable scene or fewer roster changes, it has unquestionably failed.
Now the question I pose to Valve is this: Are you willing to re-evaluate new evidence and make new rules accordingly, or are you stubbornly holding onto your initial decision?