Prominent esports live streamer, James “Phantoml0rd” Varga, chooses Valentine’s day to sue Twitch two years after the live streaming platform shut him down over his affiliation with skin gambling.
Do you remember that game we used to play when we were kids? The one where we would jump on the end of a slug, and watch the guts, heart and soul fly out the other end (I know, I’m not proud of it). Well, Twitch tried doing that to James “Phantoml0rd” Varga, and he’s fighting back.
For the uneducated, Varga is a bit of a whizz when it comes to the world of esports. From League of Legends (LOL) to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS: GO), Varga became a bit of a darling showcasing his considerable talents over the Internet.
In 2012, the talent committee at Twitch saw the genius in him and invited him on board. Over the next four years, Varga created one of the most crowd-pleasing homes on the platform attracting 16,000 paid subscribers as well as becoming the first person to amass a million followers. The Varga tribe has viewed his videos over 88m times, and in one sitting saw 144,000 people join him for a live stream. The days of worrying about your child wandering off only to end up chopped to pieces by a serial killer are long gone. Nobody is leaving the house.
Things were going swimmingly. Varga was netting 70% of the income created by those 16k subscribers, and he was pulling in some serious wonga via sponsorship. Twitch treated Varga like Gordon Ramsey would treat a freshly caught wild salmon, and then on July 19, 2016, he became a tin of sardines.
Twitch Drop Varga
In 2016, Varga received an email from the Twitch powers to be informing him that they would be closing his account ‘indefinitely.’ According to the reports I read on numerous esports websites, Twitch offered no explanation for the closure.
Five months passed before Twitch came up with a reason – Varga had fraudulent subscribers. But Varga can’t control who subscribes. Twitch came out with another reason – Varga had contravened Twitch’s Terms of Conditions (TOC) by showing non-gaming content on his stream.
Things began to make sense.
One of the ways Varga entertained his tribe was to dabble in the highly controversial art of skin gambling. The site that Varga used was CSGOShuffle. Esports journalist, Richard Lewis, came into possession of a series of Skype logs showing Varga talking to one of the CSGOShuffle owners. Lewis put 2+2 together and came up with a high probability that Varga owned a significant stake in CSGOShuffle, and therefore could have been fixing his wins to make it seem to his tribe that gambling with skins is as easy as falling to sleep while watching a Hunger Games movie.
None of these allegations were ever proven.
Varga decided it was best to become mute on the entire issue.
Rather than go quietly, Varga decided to sue the live streaming giant (a copy of which has surfaced in esports social media channels) for breach of contract, intentional and negligent misrepresentation in removing him from their platform and intentional interference with contractual relations.
There is no love lost between the pair.
The lawsuit filed on Valentine’s Day.
Varga’s legal team make it abundantly clear they believe Twitch tried to use their client as a scapegoat during the high profile and very negative press that emerged during the skin gambling debacle.
The lawsuit suggests there is zero evidence that Varga did anything to contradict Twitch’s TOC and refers to the CSGOShuffle incident as “unsubstantial” false allegations brought forth by a third party seeking to publicly disparage him and take advantage of his popularity.
The legal team go on to state that Varga asked his Twitch contacts if showing skin gambling was legal and was told by his Partnerships Manager, Jason “Opie” Babo, that the rules were ‘confusing’ and to ‘gamble no more than a few minutes at a time.’ Judging by the lawsuit, Varga didn’t comply with this advice. Babo wrote to him several times after he became aware Varga gambled for periods exceeding 30-minutes.
The heart of the case seems to be Twitch’s failure to comply with their own TOC after failing to serve notice terms on Varga giving him a 30-day grace period to correct the alleged violations.
Varga has since moved to YouTube where he has over half a million subscribers, and his most viewed video carries the title”Girlfriend Agrees to Anal.” I’m not sure if that breaks any TOC’s, but it sounds like it will break something important.