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Spotlight Extras: Chobra explains the relationship between Riot and ESL, and how IEM hypes Worlds

By Mark Register
Mar 19, 2017

Can you give us a brief overview of the history of ESL and Riot and competitive League, and where it's going?

So, obviously, I wasn't there at the start of the relationship, but what it comes down to, I think, is that ESL and Riot have had a great working relationship in that, again, the goal was the same. You want to provide an overview--a great overview--of competitive League of Legends. And now what it's coming to is that we can--ESL can provide League of Legends through IEM, where you get to see these matches that you might not. But again, we also--it’s all that balance of “the World Championship needs its status” and there's other events that--and it's all scheduling. You can't oversaturate it. You can't oversaturate anything. But I think the conclusion is that as the League of Legends ecosystem evolved, so has the conversation between us and Riot, and I think it's been a healthy one.

You know, working with Riot last year, it was very apparent that the intent was the same. The end goal was the same. At no point does either party want, you know, a certain event or broadcast to not be as good. You want it to be good. You just want to make sure that you're filling the different gaps to make sure that the community is satisfied and getting everything they can get out of something that we've all built together for esports. And I think that's the takeaway. It's very hard. It's very hard both physically against scheduling locations and also just, you know, making sure that our interests don't collide by accident.

But the communication has been really good, and it's been very refreshing to work with them because I was always a little curious, you know, when I was on the outside of “how does that work?” Because on paper, it seems like it should just be a blatant conflict, but it's not. It's really not, and it's a really fun relationship to try to figure this out. Because I think when we strike gold, it really shows, as it has in some of the past IEM events or certain stops,where people are like, “this was great.” And yet, you know, they're just as invested or, if anything, more invested afterwards about the LCS or about the World Championship, because there's this new piece of history that's been added, and I think that's the important part.

What's interesting is that you start planning these IEM events a year ahead of time. But still, there are so many moving pieces up until the last day.


What are the things that are just out of your control that you end up--even though you're spending a year developing it--what happens in those last few weeks up until the match?

Well, I mean, I think the elephant in the room that we have to address is obviously teams and their status, and it's... everyone can be on the same page six months out. “Hey, this sounds like a great time.” But, again, if a team, for instance, doesn't do well in the LCS, they have Worlds coming up, and they want to practice or they want to take a break. You can't really help that, and you can't force it because what's the point of forcing it if you want the best out of it, right? You want the best performance, you want the best games. You can't force anything.

But I think it's the fact that we have to recognize competitive League of Legends from a team’s perspective; you can never count on something being, you know, the result. You always have--I mean, a team could win and not be satisfied with their performance and suddenly want to go into a two-month boot camp. And if they want to do that because they want to win, you know, the Summoner's Cup, you have to respect it because hey, if they win the Summoner’s Cup after that, that's a cool story. You want to capture that. You don't want to step in, you know, step on any toes, and I think that's the hardest. You know, when it comes down to, you know, walking in a stadium that... it happens a while back. You sign a contract and you're good. You got it. You're done. But there are other things when it comes to scheduling again, because there's so much going on in esports overall.

So for instance, we have to consider everything we're doing internally in terms of scheduling. Can we staff this well? Can it happen? Do we have the right people? And then Riot has to make sure that their schedule works, and we have to work this--calculate this out--but even then, you know, some other events may not be planned until two months after that conversation happens, and again, how do you work off of that? And that happens, again, in any gaming community, and I think until now, I would say 85, 90 percent of the time, organizers have worked out a way to make it good still for any, you know, conflicting parties. But it's a matter of, again, being prepared, not counting on anything and being like, “Well, we locked in this date 300 days ago, so it's just going to happen.” I mean, it's not if the teams aren't there, and it's not if the fans aren't there, so you can't force anything. You just have to be open.

So you never let your guard down until the show is over, really. It's not even until you start. You start the show--sometimes that's when the real nerves start kicking in because you're like, “What if we have these delays? What if this doesn't happen? What if the lights don’t go on? Like, we had this macro plan and what if it doesn't work out?” I mean, you've rehearsed it. But again, you're working with machines. Sometimes they break. What's the backup? So until it's over--until a teardown is over--and you're flying out back home, you don't let your guard down. 

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Mark Register profile
Mark Register
Mark is the Editor-in-Chief @ Blitz Esports. He was the creator of Esports in a Nutshell, led production @ the Young Turks for 5 years, and in his other lifetimes won an Oscar, recorded albums (on Spotify), and most importantly spent a summer as a SeaWorld performer.
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