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Riot’s Directors of Esports address key questions about NA LCS franchising and format changes

By Sharon Coone
Sep 30, 2017
TL;DW for LoL Esports' The Dive Special Episode: NA LCS 2018

Riot published a special episode of The Dive today, in which Directors of Esports Whalen Rozelle and Jarred Kennedy discussed major upcoming changes to the LCS and their vision for the future of LoL Esports.

Here’s our TL;DW.

On NA LCS Franchising

Academy teams:

  • Sole objective now is to develop talent: "Let’s identify the stars of tomorrow."
  • Setting up rules to make sure teams don’t “park talent” in Academy.
  • Challenger Series served too many different objectives (5 scrappy friends who were really good and wanted to make LCS, big esports orgs entering LoL, etc), which ended up doing nothing well.
  • It’s not confirmed that they’ll name the program “Academy.”

How much does winning matter in the franchise application?

  • Riot doesn’t want to make decisions based only on winning. Because “every team’s goal is to win.” So they set that aside as a given.
  • Instead, they look at how teams respond to adversity, how they develop talent, and how they create lasting relationships with fans so fans don’t leave.

Will there be a lack of competitive spirit if teams can’t get kicked out?

  • Riot will provide more economic incentives to teams for winning, and that will also trickle down to players.
  • If an org shows a lack of commitment to building a competitive team, Riot has the power to intervene.

What happens to the current orgs and players who don’t make it into the franchise?

  • They’ll be compensated financially. All new teams need to contribute $3MM to a pool, which is then distributed to the current LCS and Challenger teams that don't make it. Payout amounts will vary based on factors like whether they're currently in LCS or Challenger.
  • Teams that don’t make it will also be able to sell their players' contracts. If they choose not to do that, players automatically become free agents.

On EU LCS

TL;DR: No decisions have been finalized.

  • Whalen and Jared discuss how part of the challenge is accounting for the country-specific economics and landscapes that are inherent to EU LCS.
    “We'd rather be slow and get it right, rather than be fast and get it wrong, and have to do it again.”

On NA Format Changes

Switching back to Bo1:

  • It was an easy decision, based on data. Fans told Riot it was hurting their desire to watch the NA LCS. Players and owners also agreed with the change.
    Most fans tune in to the LCS when it’s convenient for them, so the Bo3 narratives Riot wanted didn’t happen.

Caster opinions:

  • Kobe: As an analyst, Bo3s are easier to create stories around and to judge the strength of teams, but he couldn’t watch all the games. He’s ready to go back to Bo1s.
  • Jatt: Also in favor. People weren’t keeping up with stories because of double-casts. Couldn’t watch EU (on top of NA and LCK) this year because NA had so many games.

Competitive integrity vs watchability:

  • Teams and pros are now less focused on the number of games for improvement, but rather on more efficient, effective scrims and solo queue practice. They’ll elaborate on this in a follow-up article.

Hopes for LCS in 2023 (5-year goals):

  • Larger viewership, more people with a variety of favorite teams--not all TSM fans.
  • More money for teams and pros, more security for players, possibly longer pro careers.
  • More ways for fans to express their fandom, more interactivity for fans (as in traditional sports), at least 2 more teams with banners in the studio.
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Sharon Coone profile
Sharon Coone
Sharon spent three years as a video game encyclopedia (Editor in Chief) at Twinfinite. Now she just brags about the time she got to Gold in League of Legends using a trackpad.
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