2020 has been a rough year for everyone. There have been flubs, mistakes, and unfortunate situations. In some ways, Riot has handled it well, and in others, they've struggled. But not inviting a single member of the LPL English broadcast team to Worlds is an absolutely heinous mistake that will not only negatively affect this year's Worlds broadcast quality, but also the careers of the entire LPL English casting team and the international broadcasts of the future.
While running a show must be difficult during COVID, Riot is already planning to have the English broadcast segmented into four different cities, both across studios - and presumably - home setups, with Shanghai being one of the four. While it would add yet another variable, I struggle to find a strong enough reason why leaving off the entire LPL cast could possibly be the correct decision.
LPL as Worlds favorites
To begin with, LPL is the hosting region and the region expected to win Worlds. They've won the last two years, earning them the reward of an extra seed in 2020, meaning the LPL will make up a whole quarter of the Group Stage if LGD qualify. Meanwhile, the LCK looks fractured, Europe had a weird downward slide in the Summer, and the LCS had its most lackluster Spring split ever followed by the downfall of the region's strongest team, Cloud9, just before Worlds.
The combination of other regions' potential weaknesses, the lack of travel and comfort of playing in their home city, and their recent dominance makes them the clear favorites to take the title yet again. But the English broadcast will not have any current LPL specialists on the show. (Barento "Razleplasm" Mohammed, who spent four years in the LPL, will be on the broadcast. However, despite Raz' historical knowledge, when he left the LPL, they featured RNG, IG, and FPX at Worlds. This year, not a single one of them returned, and only one team of the four has been to Worlds since Raz joined in 2016.)
What that means is all of the analysis and in-game breakdown will come from casters who have had to study up on the region for just a couple weeks. While Riot's broadcast crew are all talented professionals, this doesn't compare to the amount of time and effort put in by the LPL English broadcast throughout the entire year. No non-LPL caster will be able to feel out the pacing properly and then match it, keeping up with the spontaneity and brutality of the world's best region.
We've already seen The Dive fumble around some of the LPL players and teams, like when they laser-focused in on Lê "SofM" Quang Duy's tank Lee Sin, brushing over the wealth of expertise he has brought to professional League of Legends worldwide. One breath later, Isaac "Azael" Cummings Bentley kind of undersold Tang "huanfeng" Huan-Feng, calling the bot lane "solid" but not really grasping the strength of their performance throughout the LPL playoffs leading up to Worlds. "If you don't know the name 'huanfeng' yet, you're kidding yourself!" says LPL play by play caster, Hysterics, in the video below, where they explain the strengths of each on the LPL's top three seeds.
The problem is not that Azael doesn't know these things, it's that there are people who know it all in explicit detail. There are experts on these players and teams, yet they're not being utilized.
The future of the Worlds broadcast
And this is more detrimental than just not having additional LPL knowledge at Worlds. This affects the careers and brands of the casters and the longevity of professional League of Legends. The big-name casters that we know from regions outside of the LCS, LEC, and LCK would not have gotten nearly the same recognition without their inclusion at international events. Without diminishing their value, the talents of Raz and Indiana "Froskurinn" Black were elevated to a world-class level and recognition in large because they were featured internationally. They absolutely deserved the opportunities they were given - they're amazing talents - but it's likely they would've struggled to reach their current status had they not been highlighted by Riot due to low LPL viewership.
This is the case with many casters beyond those two. Casting at international events gets so many more eyes on the talent and helps them grow their following and overall brand image. Even just casting the Play-In Stage would provide a wealth of experience and recognition. Furthermore, the growth of those casters' brands increases both viewership of their home regions in the following season, but also the potential for a stronger international broadcast in the following years.
Riot has not released the intent behind their decision not to include any of the LPL casters, whether it be due to complexity in the remote broadcast, a desire to solely include more well-known talent, or otherwise, but if this same decision was made year after year, then the overall casting pool would greatly diminish when more casters retire in the future. This can not be a long term plan for the sake of professional League of Legends' longevity. In 2018, Riot had two LPL casters, Raz and Frosk. But in 2019, only Raz attended from the LPL, and he was featured as an analyst, not a caster. Now in 2020, the LPL is not even a part of the show. Despite winning the last two years, the LPL broadcast team's presence at Worlds has been reduced twice in a row.
Beyond just the impacts this has on the broadcast now and in the future, this severely underserves the work this broadcast team did throughout 2020. The LPL was the first region affected by the chaos of COVID-19, and they suspended play for a month during the Spring Split. The casters were forced to go home and left on edge for what the rest of their year would look like. Then, upon reconvening to finish out the season, they had to work double to make up for the lost time.
Recognizing the talent of the LPL English broadcast team
In a recent Inven Global interview with Jake "Hysterics" Osypenko, he summated that difficult schedule. "It's been really difficult getting into the run of things. Spring was put together where we had three series a day, seven days a week, and the English broadcast only casted five of those - but doing three best of threes five days a week, and then having to watch three best of threes the other two days of the week meant there was just never time off. So spring was really difficult and there was a lot of burnout."
In the summer, they had another intense schedule, and they worked tirelessly throughout to ensure there was a good show for the fans. Because of the stress of spring and the ongoing COVID crisis, it wasn't much easier for the team. "With four of us still casting five days a week and now getting into playoffs doing best of fives... it's just been a really, really intense year." This group of casters deserves their hard work to be paid off better.
This is Worlds' 10th-anniversary event, so Riot likely wants to feature as many strong casters as possible, but Hysterics is easily in the upper echelon of casting talent across all regions, and the rest are more than capable as well. None would lower the value of the broadcast from a talent perspective, and again, their addition could actually provide more overall value given their context with the LPL. Additionally, most have casted in other regions as well, giving them knowledge outside of just Chinese League of Legends.
Hysterics has casted the LPL for two years, and was previously a caster for the Oceanic Challenger Series for a couple years before moving to China. Robert "Dagda" Price and Joseph "Munchables" Fenny both casted EU Masters in 2019, which featured players like Zhiqiang "Shad0w" Zhao and Matyáš "Carzzy" Orság, two LEC players at Worlds this year. And while this is Jordan "Lyric" Corby's first year casting, he was previously a coach for CBLoL's Flamengo and the PCS' Machi Esports. He coached two players still on Machi and one that is on V3, meaning he has exceptional knowledge of players in both Play-Ins and Groups and could be utilized as an analyst.
Take a glance at some of the calls they've made recently. Based on talent alone, they deserve to be featured at Worlds.
There's a reason they were chosen for the LPL, and there are plenty of reasons why they deserve to be featured on the Worlds stage. At the very least they should've been involved in some way, whether that be on the analyst desk as a call in — even without video if necessary — or at least behind the scenes or in content otherwise. This team of casters deserves to be highlighted, and Hysterics, if no one else, deserves to cast on the Worlds stage, even if just for the Play-Ins.
At the very LEAST commission another Monty Python sketch from these guys.
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