For the upcoming year Riot Games announced that they will be doing some changes to the EU LCS. We will be getting a higher stipend for teams and there won't be a challenger series no more. As the EU LCS prepares for a franchising model for the 2019 season.
Riot is starting to cultivate the National League system by removing the EU challenger series as a way to nurture and develop young and fresh talent into the LCS. Not only will they have their national league system but also they will add 2 cross regional tournaments to prepare those teams for the relegation system at the end of the year.
At the time we are posting this article there isn't much information nor clear details for the chosen format as announced by Riot games in October 2017.
Europe has had it difficult for the past few years compared to NA. The natural situation of having multiple countries and advertisers having a regional local advertising budget over an european cross regional budget never really helped European teams to secure money through sponsorships. Nor did the actual Challenger series system actually work as intended. Despite Europe being famous for developing new upcoming talent, the challenger series became over the years sort of a "LCS Spot Farm League" rather than an actual League used to nurture and develop national and upcoming stars. The past two years you have seen teams pick up three of the best european talents and add two koreans to close out their rosters. Obviously it wasn't Riots goal either, that's why they are trying to rebuild the ecosystem structure from the ground up, the national leagues.
The four biggest national competitions to date are the LVP in spain, the nordic league, the uk premiership and the German ESL Meisterschaft. Except for the LVP those tournaments are organized by the national ESL departments. Those aren't all the national leagues since ESL has for almost every country in Europe a tournament or at least for a tournament per region. Those scenes aren't near as big as the LCS system, nor is there nearly the same amount of money involved as in the LCS nowadays. Riot forcing teams to build around the national leagues is a clear long term goal, however in the short term it will only be a bigger hurdle for the scene.
In research about the topic we reached out to the general Manager of Mysterious Monkeys Yakup"GEEM" Özipek so we could understand the situation a little better.
“The biggest hurdle will be to create a big enough incentive.“ expresses the manager of the defending champions of the German ESL division. Riot hasn’t announced any information regarding their new system besides that there will be two multi regional tournaments that will work as a preparation for the once in a year LCS relegation tournament. Which is also not nearly enough if they aren’t properly organized and don’t serve a bigger goal, according to Yakup. Even if Yakup is very positive that every tournament would help the scene, those two events would need to be the payoff of a well organized season to match the team's needs.
In the end this will be the replacement of the challenger series, which was there to develop talent and provide constant official matches to six professional teams. Despite the clear flaws of the challenger series it worked in order to provide a schedule for those teams, a schedule to work and practice around. Development and preparing young players for the big stage is something that takes time. In general it takes up to a split or a year to prepare a fresh soloq talent to play at the LCS level. Since most of the younger and newer players are mostly young adults teams need to coach them as much outside as inside of the game. They will need a professional to supervise them as they are exposed to the new stressful environment of professional gaming. With that we need not only two events a year, but also the proper structure around it. Is it a tournament for the winners of the national teams, will there be LCS teams participating or is it even an option to open the circuit again and have more of those cross regional tournaments from third party organizers. However in order to even get to this point, the teams will need some sort of financial support. Which is not the case in the current national leagues. They are smaller, the tournament organizers don’t provide any broadcasting deals to the teams and the tournaments don’t have the reach to get the big sponsorships you would get at the LCS. Which is concerning for the teams in the league.
According to Yakup the current structure lacks many aspects in order to have the quality needed to make the tournament as attractive as the LCS.
“In fact there is no financial support for teams. Every team has to live with and bring up the costs all by themselves. If the trend continues and players keep wanting even higher salaries, it will be almost impossible for teams in Germany to keep up.“, adds Yakup.
Here is where Riot has to take action. Not only provide solutions for the current lack of structure, but also build up the much needed production this league will need to provide a foundation for these teams to build their business on. Riot will have to address the financial support but also provide video production and media coverage around the teams. The only coverage you normally find for the German ESL tournament are coming either through news and recaps from the ESL, the German League of Legends site Summoners Inn or through the coverage by the teams of Deutsche Welle and Sport1 esports. There is coverage but most of it is relatively young and the non endemic media which joined recently is mostly focused on covering the big events. Even if esports isn’t a new thing in Germany, it still feels extremely new. It isn’t fully accepted by the mainstream media yet, slowing down further growth of the national scene. A problem that might still be present in other countries Riot is aiming to host their national Leagues.
“Everything will withstand and fall with Riot. I think Riot needs to be more talkative and share more information to stabilize Europe. Everybody is scared about their own existence because Riot could mess it up at any moment. I only hope we get a good system, where many young talents can get their chance and prove themselves against the best players in Europe. “, answered Yakup when asked about his predictions about the European Region and what needs the national League system to succeed.
The National League system is an aspiring long term goal for Riot and the esports itself. It would be the next big thing after the start of the LCS. It is ambitious and would bring the whole esports ecosystem in Europe a big step forward. It brings risks with it, risks that can minimize by the right investment. It won’t only take Riot to invest money into building out a structure, building a foundation or a stage in order for the national leagues to be successful. It will take much more to break the social barrier and bring esports to the mainstream in those countries. As long as the plan is to create a “farm league” to build out talent, the league might still fail. The league will succeed with stars leading them, with stories carrying them and the possibility of financial success. Team owners are scared for a good reason, it's hard to draft a business plan, to find the proper investment for the current LCS ecosystem. They will always be on the brink of survival and total failure until there is a safety net or the possibility of a good return on investment. As long as Riot fails to create a platform team owners can brand around, they can build their business on with the right starting help it can work. Is the mountain too high and the gap to long, the system might not work and the teams might drop out. In the end it will depend on how much is Riot willing to invest into the system or how open they will be to welcome helpers to make it work.
Mysterious Monkeys has been one of the top teams in Germany since the existence of the german league. Despite joining the European LCS this summer after buying Misfits academy spot the organization has kept both their League of Legends lineups. They lost relegations to Schalke 04 and would be playing the challenger series upcoming year. I can only join Yakup in his opinion, we all can only hope for a good system in order for Europe to succeed.
Disclaimer : The following article was written freely based on the author's opinion, and it may not necessarily represent Inven Global's editorial stance.
About the Author:
Hello guys, Alexandre Weber also known under the ID: DrPuppet. I'm a Brazilian professional Coach and content creator since 2015, mostly focused on League of Legends. I worked with many teams throughout the years in major and minor regions, but my most known work was with Kaos Latin Gamers from Chile in 2015, where we played the International Wildcard Finals against Pain Gaming. Since then I have been studying Cinema in Hamburg and creating content on youtube and twitch, besides writing for respected sites in Esports. You can find me on the social networks under @drpuppetlp and on Twitch under DrPuppet.
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