Is Riot finally going to fix smurfing in League after Dota 2 changes?

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If you’re frustrated with the number of smurfs in your League of Legends ranked games, you’re not alone. But is Riot finally going to do something about this problem?

LoL developer Riot Games has tried addressing the issue of smurfing in the past, but has yet to do so successfully. The issue has now come under increased attention again with anecdotal evidence of an increase in smurfing problems combined with recent actions taken by Valve in rival MOBA Dota 2.

But is Riot willing to follow Valve’s lead and make the sweeping changes needing to eliminate smurfing from League of Legends?

Smurfs remain a problem in LoL while Dota 2 sees progress

The bulk of the latest attention is centered around Valve’s recent announcement that it had banned more than 90,000 smurf accounts from Dota 2. The change was met with adulation from fans and most players, even as it faced resistance from streamers and some pro players. That resistance is part of the reason why Riot Games seems unwilling to ban smurf accounts in League of Legends.

One othe most commonly cited reasons for Riot to avoid banning smurfing is that it makes money for the developer. Dedicated players are willing to spend more time in the game, and eventually spend more money in it, while playing across multiple accounts. Those players may negatively affect others’ games, but is that enough for Riot to actually do something about it?

Multiple prominent pro players and streamers in Dota 2, all of whom are among the game’s most dedicated players, loudly complained about the elimination of their smurf accounts. They took issue with increased queue times on their main accounts, and the inability to showcase gameplay against lesser players to their audiences.

Valve has refused to budge in response to this noise, however. Is Riot Games also willing to stand up to its biggest personalities? It seems more likely that Riot would bow to their noise.

Prominent LoL streamer Tyler “Tyler1” Steinkamp is a notable example of this dynamic. Despite being universally known for his toxic in-game behaviors, Tyler1 is specifically celebrated and promoted by Riot Games because he is such a popular personality. Tyler 1 has previously had accounts banned from the game, but Riot now goes so far as to invite him to big events and to send him exclusive rewards for his successes across multiple accounts, including on smurf accounts. That doesn’t sound like a company willing to take a hard stand against its top personalities.

Can Riot Games fix smurfing in League of Legends?

There’s little doubt that Riot Games can improve the smurfing problem in League of Legends, if not outright fix it. Riot has the technical capacity and the resources to take most actions that Valve can.

Just as Valve owns the Steam client that powers Dota 2, Riot owns the Riot Games client that powers League of Legends, giving it broad access to information on its players. It also has the money and manpower to track accounts and identify smurfs. So Riot clearly is capable of addressing the problem.

In fact, Riot has tried to address smurfing before with a smurfing queue meant to separate likely smurfing accounts from other players. The problem with that implementation is that it wasn’t able to separate new and lapsed players from smurfs, inadvertently punishing returning and new players by jamming them into the same separate queue as suspected smurfs.

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The failure of that attempt may mean that Riot is unwilling to further invest in addressing smurfs, even as the main rival game to League, Dota 2, is able to do exactly that.

Can you avoid smurfs in League of Legends?

Unfortunately, as things currently stand there is no real way to avoid smurfs in League of Legends. New accounts that are ranked up to level 30 and eligible to play in ranked games are easy for existing players to buy and smurf on, and until that changes or large ban waves are introduced to the game, this is likely to remain a problem.

Anecdotal reports across social media would seem to indicate that smurfing is becoming an even bigger problem in League of Legends than it previously has been, with some players reporting that the vast majority of their games include opponents who are provably smurfing.

But this still isn’t hard evidence that the problem is getting worse. To understand that, players and fans would need access to the data kept on the issue by Riot Games. And given that the issue doesn’t look to be getting resolved any time soon, it’s high unlikely that Riot would provide that sort of context. Especially if it paints the game in a poor light.

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Written by Jared Wynne

Jared Wynne has been covering gaming and esports for the past two decades. He's a former competitor in Counter-Strike, and still counts it among his favorite games along with RPGs like Baldur's Gate and Mass Effect. He studied journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.

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