The LFL 2022 Spring Season has been a milestone for ERLs. Incredible viewership, strong competition, and players like Martin "Rekkles" Larsson in tow. It may just be the tip of the iceberg, though. With organizations such as KOI and Karmine Corp continuing to sprout up, ERLs may continue to grow in popularity and competitiveness.
Inven Global spoke with Laure "Bulii" Valée about the league’s development, how it compares with the LEC, and how Rekkles has adjusted to playing there.
You’ve been doing some a lot of work with the LFL this split. What impressions have you had of the league this season?
Everyone has been talking about the fact that the LFL was super stacked. And even from an insider perspective, it also feels this way: with the amount of good imports, or unexpected imports that we had in the league. And I think it's really good because right now, it feels like the LFL is becoming a mini-LEC. That's the way we call this, because most of the players, if they want to have visibility, they will join the LFL because they know that it is the best ERL to maybe have a chance to get back to the LEC.
So from a French perspective and a broadcaster perspective, it's been amazing to see because the viewership is insane. And not only during the KCorp games. Yeah, we have a globally hype and high level league. And it all comes down to the fact that teams invested more in players and team environments. We'll see how the EU Masters develop, but I heard some some stuff about them that made me think… maybe I won't develop on this, because I'm not supposed to say. But overall, it shows that the league has been doing super well. And we'll see if we can win EU Masters in the end. But yeah, it's looking good so far.
"I don't think we've reached the full potential of the LFL."
The growth seems crazy. Are we even close to its full potential?
It depends. Because right now, a lot of it is driven by KCorp, and the fact that KCorp has a huge fan base. So right now, I would say that they're the only fans that can have these periods. And I'm just hoping that maybe we would have more teams like that joining the league in the years to come.
I know that in the second division, we had more influencers building their structure and trying to build something similar to what KCorp has. So I just think it's going to be based on that: if we can have more of these organizations, who can gather a lot of fans. Because I think we're...not reaching the limits of the old system with the classic structure, but most of them right now may be missing an incarnation and someone who can drive an audience. So I'm just hoping in the future, we can have more teams like KCorp, who can drive as many fans as they do. But I don't think we've reached the full potential of the LFL.
Is it a matter of time till they've built up teams that can rival KCorp?
It's a matter of investment, honestly. What Kameto did gave a lot of ideas to other people. We've seen all around Europe — we have Ibai building his team, etc. But I would like to see more of this effect in the LFL. At the end of the day, it just falls down on how much these influencers want to invest in teams. Right now, what we have in second division is very limited compared to what we have with KCorp.We'll see how it develops, but it just comes down to whether influencers want to invest or not in their teams. And right now we don't see people doing as hard as Kameto did it.
It’s been over a year now since One Trick Productions was launched. What have you learned in that time?
It's the first time I'm part of a project like this. We always had a strong broadcast in France. But the fact that we built OTP, brought a lot of new broadcasters, brought a lot of new people who can help us and develop the brand, has brought a lot of effects to what we can bring on broadcast. And right now we're also supported by Riot.
It's very interesting, right? Because whenever I'm in Riot meetings, so often the LFL comes up, and so often OTP and the work that we've been doing comes up. So I'm super happy that we're taken as an example, sometimes. It means a lot for us. And yeah, I think it's been the best year we had for our broadcast — with OTP. And I don't know how we will develop in the future — maybe we'll take more IPs. But yeah, so far with just taking care of League of Legends, I think it's been doing really well.
The infrastructure of ERLs has improved a lot over the years. Now that you’ve swapped this split between LFL and LEC, what would you say the biggest differences right now are?
So I haven't visited that many LFL teams so far, so I don't know how they train, exactly. But the structure is the same. You will have the same amount of coaching and the same amount of people supporting the players. So again, it just feels like a mini-LEC, in the sense that they have the same facilities. They have similar people taking care of players. I would say that the gap is closing. And when you think about it, most of the teams we have in the LFL or in ERL's in general are just Academies. And they're just taking example on what the big guys are doing. So I don't think it's surprising that teams may look like the LEC.
"It just comes down to whether influencers want to invest or not in their teams. And right now we don't see people doing as hard as Kameto did it."
How big has it been having Rekkles in the league?
It's been huge. I mean, even when you see on social whenever K Corp posts something about Rekkles — no one would expect someone like him to join this league. But yet again, if his hope is to get back to the LEC. He mentioned the fact that offseason didn't go as expected for him. And I mean, that's the best way for getting back.
But yeah, he is huge. And all the people who want to follow Rekkles now follow the LFL. So I think it brought a lot more viewership. And even from an LEC standpoint, everyone wants to know how Rekkles is doing. And we saw that during the show match and even the events we had in the LFL — the fact that so many English speakers are interested in watching his performance.
You've talked to him quite a bit since he's joined. How does he seem?
Really happy, honestly. And every time in interviews, he always says that this team and this this league brings him Fnatic vibes, in the sense that it's been a long time for him since he felt the love from fans and the fact that he was supported. So I would say he's doing okay.
The only thing is the fact that now he has to play from Sweden — we were talking about the difference between the LEC and the LFL. Some teams train from home, and that's the case for K Corp. They don't have a gaming house per se, they just have a bootcamp place. And every other three weeks they will just gather up and play together. So it's unlike the experience he had in the LEC at all. Right now he's playing from home. So the main adjustment I would say is the fact that he's not in the gaming house, is not on a day-to-day schedule working with the team, and that's something he had to adapt on. But yeah, overall I think he's liking the change.
Who are some LFL personalities you think English viewers would enjoy?
When I review all the interviews that I have and everything, it's just the veterans that come out. Iit's something that's important for me, because sometimes these veterans that I used to interview in the LEC — they didn't have the same vibe. And now in the LFL, they seem more happy and more joking during interviews. So I don't think there is a specific player. It's just that the veterans that I used to interview in this league are now more free, it feels.
I have the same impression with Vander, for instance, or Jactroll. Jactroll has to be the best example, because he's the best interview in the LFL, and he may be the player we like talking to the most right now. And he's always joking around, bantering with everyone. Same for Czekolad. When he was in the LEC, he was never like that. So, I don't know. I would say the players we had some time within the LEC are the ones that I like the most in the LFL personality-wise, because they don't have the same vibe.
"The gap is closing."
What have been your impressions of the LEC this year? Some people have said that it’s been a bit more boring this time around with no defined top team, the fact that people like Rekkles are out — what do you think?
Well, I came into this year with this impression. And honestly, it's something that I don't feel is mentioned anymore. I mean, we have Fnatic and Rogue right now who seem to be the strongest teams, and I expect them to be as strong in playoffs. Vitality may be disappointing in the sense that we expected them to just win everything and have better results. I would say that what made the game a bit more boring would be the meta, though, with the shutdowns. The fact that we often see the same drafts, same openings, not a lot of room for improvement and to be creative, I would say. And the fact that we have late game meta scaling, is what — according to me — makes the game a bit boring. But I don't feel that the competition has been boring per se, because we lost Rekkles or anyone.
Besides the Rekkles angle, what would you pitch to English LEC viewers for why they should watch the LFL?
We have the best level in Europe, besides the LEC. And I would even say that sometimes in some games, we can compete with LEC level. But it's also a good opportunity for viewers to catch up with players that they haven't seen in a while. And of course, you would think of Rekkles, but we have so many more: Vander, Vizicsacsi, etc. It's also a good way for viewers to discover new players, because when you think about the amount of players we had run the LFL to the LEC over the past two years — Vetheo, for instance — I think it's a good chance for viewers to discover the future rising stars of the LEC. And also have a lot of fun, because even though people may not understand French, OTP is a very fun broadcast to watch. And I'm very surprised when I hear that English speaking colleagues often watch OTP even though they don't speak French for the vibe. So yeah. Take a risk.
You don't see too many people jumping between separate broadcasts. What motivates you to continue doing this?
Wow, that's a good one. I don't know. I think I've always been like this. I don't see myself right now at least as having a nine-to-five job where I just work with the same people every day. I often said I don't think I would be as happy if I were working full time in the LEC, for instance. And the fact that I can swap is actually what makes me happy and what makes it challenging. Definitely I would be better on the LEC if I was just doing the LEC and not swapping between languages.
But I don't know, I would say I like the challenge. And also I like the change. For me, being a freelancer in esports is the way I want to do things. I wouldn't see myself having just one job. I like doing multiple stuff, but also maybe because I'm not sure of the direction I want to take in the years to come. Maybe I want to try a lot of things. I love broadcasts, but since I picked up on content creating, this is something I really, really enjoy as well. So I don't know, I think I just want to keep on exploring my options. And maybe I will settle on something in a few years, we'll see.
I write. I rap. I run. That’s pretty much it.