This is my personal opinion; as a person who was intimately involved in esports as well as one who resided in the entertainment industry for almost a decade, I feel the need to express my thoughts. I do not know the full details, but I will be speaking from what I hear and see firsthand.
Personally, I do not think a multi-region EU is a very wise move by Riot, while at the same time I hope it succeeds for the good of the game and everyone involved.
All teams wanted was revenue sharing, not a dramatic overhaul of a system that was somewhat stable. Fragmenting and complicating an already weak region will just limit its potential and revenue, as well as propagate a lack of interest among fans.
Truth be told, people tune in to see the great LCS teams, not the smaller, less relevant ones. Rather than providing the tools for strengthening your weak teams, you’ve decided to create even weaker ones, as the talent pool is just not there for your new model to sustain great competition just yet.
Keep in mind, modern esports is still in its infancy. Many families still consider it a taboo and many amazing players shove it aside in favor of normal jobs. There are no academies or schools to foster gaming as a career, like football (soccer) has. In addition to this, the decision will also attract smaller sponsors with much smaller budgets, as localized sponsors are generally weaker than their global offices. Most sponsorship money from global brands will want to flow to North America now to get maximum exposure, as EU as a whole won’t be a focal point.
Besides this, generally the problems in EU come from both ends of the spectrum (teams and Riot), however this is due to greater problems within the very foundation of the industry as a whole. Here are my thoughts on the matter.
To Riot :
1. Promote your teams and help them make money. Allow teams to sell merchandise like jerseys or hats at the studio and through an online shop. Sell skins, icons, etc… Riot can take a small cut, the rest goes to teams.
2. Give teams part ownership in the league itself so that their interests align and they all work towards a common goal to further increase exposure and support. This eliminates relegation, and at the same time allows room for expansion tournaments from time to time. Perhaps initiate a draft system for players, so that every so often older players will exit, and a weaker team will become strong with proper drafts.
3. Let this scene grow organically and stop associating it with traditional sports so much. Yes, they are related to some extent, but this industry is its own monster that has risen out of a counter culture to traditional sports, and is now making waves. You have the leverage, don't give it up to the bigger scene who just sees it as an extension to their marketing activities. The money will come with time. Be patient. You have something cool with potential to be long lasting. Don’t let it go stale and die. Don’t let this become a fad that turns uncool.
4. The industry is being hyper inflated by investors. This inflation is causing a bubble which may kill the scene. Once investors realize they are making no money, they will pull out. New ones will come, they will realize the same, and they will pull out as well. One day, no one will want to invest any further. At that time, teams will be going bankrupt left and right. There is just not enough income from the actual games and tournaments to sustain this industry at the moment. It has blown up too quickly; time to scale back a little.
To the players:
Your salaries are way too high. This is not your fault. Go get that money as long as people are willing to pay it, but the reality is that it is draining the teams, causing them to seek so many investors and sell themselves out. What happens when the money runs out and teams start going bankrupt? You lose your jobs, the scene fails, and there will be no future gamers.
It doesn’t help that Germany takes half of your income, either. Maybe Riot should move out of Germany.
I can’t blame you for seeking market value, but perhaps, collectively, we could be smart and scale back for long term success. Organize and defend your interests. Stop being lazy. This is business, not your parents' house.
To the teams (This is not for every team; there are some exceptions):
You complain about revenue, lack of proper sponsorships, and more... and I feel your pain. But your brands and branding activities are poor. Most of you exist as a logo on a social media page and on the LCS screens the day you play.
You post nothing interesting for a brand to want to sponsor you, let alone attract audience attention. The generic posts of "oh we had a close game against blah blah, we will be stronger next week/buy our stuff from the merch shop/check out game highlights" doesn't cut it. You have no vision, and frankly, are boring. You do not seek to create new/additional revenue streams to sustain yourself, and most of you have no fans of your own, just fans of your players that you will unfortunately lose when your players leave.
Go out and be creative. Create new content that will attract attention, convert fans, and make them hungry for more. Create an atmosphere where people are proud to wear your colors. Be innovators and pioneers. Your market and potential reach is much wider than you think.
Stop the greed and the selfish interests. You all feed off of the same fruit. Work together to progress and reap the rewards, or else you will all be left with nothing in the end.
Blitz Esports’ Op-Ed column is dedicated to featuring opinions from across the League of Legends esports scene. If you have a story to tell, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.