Phant0mlord seeks $35m in damages from Twitch in court case - Dexerto

Phant0mlord seeks $35m in damages from Twitch in court case

Published: 21/Aug/2019 11:13 Updated: 21/Aug/2019 21:33

by Richard Lewis


The first court cases in one of the most significant lawsuits in streaming history took place between August 13 and 15. James ‘PhantomL0rd’ Varga, at one time one of the most popular personalities in live streaming, is suing the platform where he used to broadcast, Twitch, after he was banned from using their services in 2016.

Having filed his lawsuit on February 14 2018, after he had been banned from the Twitch platform for almost 600 days, PhantomL0rd’s legal team claimed that Twitch had violated its contract with him by never issuing a satisfactory explanation for why they terminated his account. 

The files presented to the court included evidence of Twitch representatives appearing to be unclear over their own rules. Varga’s legal counsel stated that his removal from the platform had caused him “irreparable damages,” which prompted Twitch to counter-file in May of the same year where they too stated they would seek damages for an amount to be disclosed at trial.

@PhantomL0rd TwitterPhantomL0rd once held the record for unique concurrent viewers on a personal stream at 143,000.

The dates became known to the public after Varga’s purported ex girlfriend and business partner Tory “dinglederper” Weeks tweeted about them asking fans from California to come and attend the open court sessions. She framed the hearings as Twitch being questioned regarding “ToS and contracts,” while omitting the context as to why these hearings would be taking place.

Minutes from the court case show that, in addition to Varga – who once held the record for most concurrent viewers on an individual stream – taking the stand to be questioned, former Twitch employees Stuart Saw and Twitch’s current Vice President of Global Partnerships John Howell were both cross-examined.

After two days full days in court with a brief session on the third, the court stated that closing briefs, a final summary of arguments and findings, will be due for submission on September 13. Two weeks from that date the court will issue a proposed statement of decision, at which time legal teams can file any objections. This may lead to further hearings, so it could be a while still before there is a decision on this specific component of the case. 

This hearing represents only a component of what will be an ongoing trial specifically focused on a clause in the contract. The “limited liability clause” in both of the agreements between the parties essentially states that, should one party decide to sue the other any monetary damages, damages will be limited to a maximum of $50,000. 

In summary Varga’s lawyers argue that this is unfair as he wasn’t aware of the clause, wasn’t empowered to review his contract, that it disproportionately protects Twitch, and that he has lost significantly more than that in damages from the ban. Twitch argue that there was no pressure, that they cannot be held responsible for Varga not reviewing the contract, and that the liability limitations can’t be argued as one-sided as they apply to both parties.

Regardless of whether or not the court decrees the limited liability clause to be upheld, it won’t be a definitive ruling in the overall case. Rather, the focus will be on how much in damages Varga could potentially claim. It also appears that, if the clause is unenforceable, then Twitch could also make a claim for liability above the $50,000 amount too. During a recent live stream Varga had stated that he believed his damages would total $35 million.

For those who have not been following the case, James Varga was banned from Twitch in July 2016 after leaked Skype logs showed he was an undisclosed owner of skin gambling site CSGO Shuffle and that he was also working with the website’s coder to manipulate outcomes. While his channel was banned a steady stream of new subscribers were appearing at regular intervals, leading many to conclude that they were part of a botting service designed to induce other people to subscribe.

While Twitch doesn’t comment publicly on why people are banned, the reasons seemed clear enough. The resulting scandal was instrumental in prompting Valve to begin a clampdown on skins gambling, sending cease and desist letters to many of the most popular sites. 

Twitch also released a statement reminding streamers: “As per Twitch’s Terms of Service, broadcasters are not permitted to stream content that breaks the terms of service or user agreements of third-parties. As such, content in which the broadcaster uses or promotes services that violate Valve’s stated restrictions is prohibited on Twitch.” 

CSGO Shuffle was included in the initial wave of cease and desist letters. 

After taking close to a year off from streaming, Varga would later come back, this time on YouTube, again with a heavy focus on case-opening and gambling. His return stream in July 2017 saw him express his desire to sue Twitch and state that he was “looking forward to asserting [his] rights to the fullest extent of the law.”

Despite having been named in a dismissed lawsuit in 2016 no one had filed a lawsuit specifically against the activity of CSGO Shuffle, something Varge also acknowledged in the aforementioned stream. For many in the community it seemed that he had got away with what he had done with few consequences and, as such, people believed that any chance of him suing Twitch was marginal.

There is a possibility the lawsuit could reach an abrupt end, depending on how the court rules on this hearing. If the liability clause is upheld Twitch might choose to settle for the $50,000 maximum to simply end the legal proceedings. 

If the court deems the clause to be improper in any fashion, though, we are likely to see objections from Twitch’s legal counsel, which would naturally draw out the proceedings for a longer period of time. Dexerto shall keep you up to date with information from the trial as it progresses.


Adam Fitch: Sorry Dr Disrespect, mobile esports are thriving

Published: 27/Nov/2020 17:00

by Adam Fitch


Earlier in November 2020, streamer Dr Disrespect spoke down towards mobile gamers on Twitter by questioning how it could be a “serious thing” — however, he’s just failing to understand how popular competition on mobile already is.

While mobile gamers and industry figures alike came to the defense of mobile gaming when the Two-Time took aim at the platform, there’s still a serious misconception around mobile esports and the success it’s already achieved.

Firstly, it’s worthwhile addressing the “serious” comment from Doc. While mobile devices perhaps don’t allow for precision that PCs do, there’s still a major skill gap between average and professional players and that lends itself perfectly to competition. The most common and widely-accepted definition of esports is a “video game played competitively for spectators,” mobile tournaments meet such a criteria on a daily basis and it’s already serious to hundreds of thousands of viewers on a weekly basis.

This skepticism from one of the faces of gaming is emblematic of a larger problem of platform elitism that plagues gaming on all levels. Ever since the popularization of esports there has been debate between console and PC gaming, centering around not only which type of players are better but whether console esports have unfair advantages due to features such as aim assist.

Ezreal in League of Legends Wild Rift
Riot Games
The most popular esports title, League of Legends, arrived on mobile in October 2020.

Tribalism is also a factor in this spritely, never-ending discussion, with players grouping together based on their platform of choice and nonsensically taking aim at those who have other preferences.

The only time in which such a debate would be productive is if cross-platform play is embraced in serious competition, which seems to be a long way away from ever becoming a reality. Fortnite developers Epic Games received plenty of criticism when implementing this feature in casual play, never mind in their esports activities, so it’s probably safe to assume no companies are rushing to make this a reality for the time being.

Infrastructure matters

Something that all good games need to be viable on a competitive level is infrastructure. Creating an appropriate structure for esports initiatives is important, whether it’s by a game’s developer or a third-party tournament organizer.

A great example of this in the realm of mobile esports is Clash Royale, one of the more popular titles from Finnish developers Supercell. The real-time strategy game has its own official team-based league from the company themselves, with top-tier gameplay spanning nine weeks and culminating in a year-ending world championship. This level of support and structure actually goes beyond what some PC and console games receive.

On the third-party organizer front, especially in the West, you only have to look as far as ESL to see how seriously mobile esports is being taken. As well as hosting regular online events for the likes of Call of Duty: Mobile, Clash of Clans, Brawls Stars, and Clash Royale, they have the ESL Mobile Open for elite players.

Clash Royale League World Finals
The Clash Royale League World Finals are always a spectacle, rivaling events in almost any other game.

Recently incorporating the Middle East and North Africa into the European arm of the competition, it’s said that ESL hosted over 500,000 players in the inaugural season alone. The second season involves PUBG Mobile, Auto Chess, Asphalt 9: Legends, and Clash of Clans, and will be expecting even more success with the widening of the player base.

In North America, the Mobile Open from ESL is already in its sixth season and has a headline sponsorship from the world’s largest telecommunications company, AT&T. There are other examples of infrastructure being fleshed out for mobile titles, but you get the gist.

A sight for sore eyes

One major factor of how we define success in esports is viewership. With a healthy amount of eyeballs on a product comes sponsorship opportunities, bragging rights, and further validation that fans are interested in watching the elite face off against each other.

With that in mind, it’s never been clearer that mobile esports isn’t just a major part of the future of the industry — it has already arrived. According to analytics agency Esports Charts, mobile events made up three of the five most popular tournaments in October 2020. This happened alongside the League of Legends World Championship taking place, which is not only one of the most anticipated occasions in the esports calendar but as it turned out to be one of the only LAN events we’d seen in six months.

Garena Free Fire
Free Fire hit a record of 100 million peak daily users earlier in 2020.

Asia and Latin America are where mobile esports are truly thriving at the moment, rivaling the popularity of any other title you decide to compare them with. This is proven from last month’s peak viewership statistics, where MOBA title Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and battle royale game Garena Free Fire occupied three of the top five placements.

Ryan ‘Fwiz’ Wyatt, the head of gaming at YouTube, posted a thread on Twitter on November 26 backed up the sheer popularity of Free Fire on the platform. In 2019, it was YouTube’s fourth most-viewed game and it’s proving to have some longevity considering its monthly viewership peaked in October 2020.

While this level of success isn’t replicated across all regions just yet, that’s how esports typically work. Call of Duty and Counter-Strike are mainly popular among those in North America and Europe, for example, which is reflected in the demographics of both the top-level players and the viewership alike. The same applies to mobile but it’s not an excuse for ignorance.

The future?

Mobile devices are generally more accessible than a high-end computer or new-generation gaming console so there’s a much higher ceiling on participation in mobile esports by default. Whether adoption from mobile users does indeed propel it into becoming the de facto competitive option is yet to be seen, but such potential can’t be ignored.

With viewership rivaling (and even oftentimes besting) that from console and PC esports alike, it’s sheer ignorance to state that mobile gaming isn’t already a major player in the industry. If you fail to see that from the investment that’s being funneled into mobile titles, or the number of people who already enjoy playing and spectating, then perhaps you’d like to argue that grass isn’t green too.