On the 2nd of November (KST), the main sponsor of Worlds 2018, Mastercard, held an event called Mastercard Nexus in Seoul. Many players and streamers came in to participate in the event. In the meantime, we had a chance to talk to one of Riot's global esports co-leads, Jarred Kennedy.
Hi, nice to meet you. Can you briefly introduce yourself?
My name is Jarred Kennedy, and I’m co-head of esports for Riot Games.
What are the main things you do?
I’m generally responsible for the health of the sport overall; specifically, I’m also responsible for operating all of our global events and everything associated with them.
About the three locations for Worlds for the next three years that were announced yesterday. What was the main reason to announce them at the same time?
This has been a long-term aspiration of ours to be more strategic about how we operate our global events. This represented the combination of a lot of work around how do you unlock the ability to allow sponsors and cities to get behind you earlier in the process and make a better overall experience for fans on the ground.
So by calling our shot, the planning can start three years out which we think we’ll make a pretty big difference for the overall product.
Does it have any relation with this year’s venues being announced late?
Yes and no. We started looking at venues for Korea a year ago. But sometimes, each market has different rules around when you can actually secure the venues. I think this year’s late venue announcement was less about a lack of planning and more around the local market dynamics. But our aspiration is to secure venues in as far in advance as possible because it allows fans, brands to plan, and it allows our team to put on the best possible show.
Why did you decide to have Worlds for the coming years in those regions specifically?
There’s a bunch of regions but the main one being they’re all terrific regions with thriving fan basis and places where we think we can execute the World Championship to the standard that we feel is deserved by the fans.
Is there a special reason for each region or is it all the same?
I would say each region has its own advantages but all of them meet the strategic criteria. There’s a broad League of Legends community, there are venues at the scale we want to operate in, there’s the infrastructure that we need, and that we feel like we can go in there and activate with partners to put on a great experience.
There’s a lot of attention to the Worlds locations from the fans. What’s the most important aspect of selecting a location?
The most important thing is the fans. Do we feel like the fans are there, or will go there and enjoy themselves? The good news for us is that there are a lot of places in the world that meet that criteria.
So the next question is: do we feel that we can go in there and execute? Can we get the venues far enough in advance? Do the venues have the infrastructure that we need? Can we be on the ground there for several weeks? And a lot of the logistical operational things come in, but the first thing is really are the fans there and can we give the fans a great experience.
Most of the international competitions are held in NA, EU, China, or Korea. Do you have any plans to have future events in other regions such as Japan or Southeastern Asia?
We’ve been to Southeastern Asia in the past for Worlds; we were in Taiwan and also in Singapore. We were in Brazil for MSI last year. So we’re always looking for ways to bring LoL esports to other parts of the world, and we love it when we do that. I was in Brazil, I was in Taipei; those were amazing experiences with incredible fan basis.
So yes, we do plan to do that. Obviously, not for Worlds in the next three years, but we’re always looking at ways that we can bring this experiences around the world. And we have other events like Rift Rivals that allow us to do some of that as well.
As one of the leaders in global esports, how was this Worlds?
It’s been really special. From a competitive perspective, there were lots of surprises, lots of upsets, and more global parity than we’ve ever seen before. Whether or not that global parity is temporary or is it a real paradigm shift that is to be determined. But as a fan, there’s so much to like.
You really didn’t know what was going to happen; I don’t think anybody would have expected to be looking at a semifinal without a Korean team or a European-Chinese final. That’s really exciting for us at a global sports level because what we want is a thriving sport where everybody has a chance to go and do great things on the international stage.
Seeing some of the individual performances where people stepped up in the biggest moments in their careers to deliver is really special to see. No matter what happens tomorrow is history-making in many respects.
From a general global sports perspective, you can’t ask for more than that. I think it’s the best Worlds we’ve ever had.
You had said earlier that THE most important thing was fans in selecting a location. How did you like it in Korea at this Worlds?
I’ve only been in Korea for about a week but everything that I’ve heard has been incredible. But that’s to be expected. This is the home of esports. We’ve been here before and had a wonderful experience in 2014. The Korean market continues to innovate and lead the charge forward. So we kind of expect to come to Korea and have it be awesome and it was.
If you predict the results for tomorrow, who do you think will win?
Ooh… (Or maybe who do you want to win?) I’ve already won. (Laughs) Obviously, I’ve already won because we’ve got a European-Chinese final, it’s history-making either way, we’ve got two teams that there’s no clear favorite. Yes, Fnatic beat IG in the tournament earlier, two games to one, so that’s a thing but does that matter going into a Best of 5s; I’m not sure that it does. I think we’ve got two teams that have enough familiarity with each other to make it strategically interesting, and it’s a toss-up. I think that’s really exciting.
From a sports perspective, we win either way. If China wins, that’s amazing; it’s their first championship, that’s incredible. If Fnatic wins, it’s a nice symmetry between season 1 and season 8, and we’re going to Europe for Worlds next year.
The narratives are amazing in a bunch of different ways. So I’m just excited to see; I can’t wait. I don’t personally have a favorite, but I just hope it’s a great match. I’d love to see it go five [games]; I think that would be amazing.
Besides the three regions announced, are there any regions that you hope to hold future events?
I’d love to hold the events everywhere. (Laughs) You know, honestly, I really would. I’d love to go to Japan, I’d love to go to Turkey, I’d love to go back to Brazil. I mean, those are just to name a few. I’m not saying that we have plans to do any of those things immediately, but ultimately, we have fans around the world, and we want to bring great experiences to those fans.
If we can’t bring the tournament to them, we want to make sure that we’re innovating the way you view the product online so that you can bring that into your home, into your area in a way that feels really compelling. There’s a lot of investment going on the platform side to make sure that the viewing experience is amazing.
You can’t be in all places, but yeah, if there were no constraints and we could be in multiple places at once, I’d love to be in every region.
All the fans around the world are most likely grateful to you, so do you have any comments to the fans?
We’re grateful for having the best fans in all of the sports. We’ve got a truly global fan base that tunes in and engages in ways that always take our breath away. When we look at some of the viewership numbers and some of the passion that you see from the community, it’s what motivates us to kind of continue to come to work every day to try to deliver the best experiences. We hope that everybody tunes in tomorrow. They get what they deserve which is the best esports experience, the best sporting experience in the world. Our community deserves it.
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