Samsung Galaxy Face SKT in LoL Finals…Again
It’s no secret League of Legends is dominated by Korean players and Korean teams. In fact, of the 14 teams that have competed in a World Finals match, nine have been Korean. This year, Samsung Galaxy looks to avenge their loss in last year’s finals to SKT T1, the three-time champion. Below is a breakdown of each LoL Final’s matchup since 2011, the first ever championship.
2017: SKT T1 (KR) faces Samsung Galaxy (KR)
2016: SKT T1 (KR) defeats Samsung Galaxy (KR) 3-2
2015: SKT T1 (KR) defeats ROX Tigers (KR) 3-1
2014: Samsung Galaxy White (KR) defeats Star Horn Royal Club (CN) 3-1
2013: SKT T1 (KR) defeats Royal Club (CN) 3-0
2012: Taipei Assassins (TW) defeats Azubu Frost (KR) 3-1
2011: Fnatic (UK) defeats against All authority (FR) 2-1
Is Korean dominance good for the competitive balance of the LoL scene?
From a North American / US perspective, of course not. NA fans want to see TSM or Cloud9 finally realize success in Worlds and the dominance of Korea is partly to blame. This region has consistently produced the best players as they all compete on the same server thus sharpening their skills against one another.
So the question is, is there a way to balance the competition to allow other regions to be more successful on the global stage? Current NA residency rules allow for only two non-NA players on a team. If this limit were increased, an influx of Korean players would immediately improve the overall competitiveness of the NA league and any others that make the change. However, a slew of other issues begin to surface. For one, teams must balance the importance of building a brand and winning games. It’s hard for a team to connect with fans if the majority of their players don’t speak English. Without geographic ties to a city, how does a team then qualify as an “NA” team if the majority of their players aren’t from the region? Lastly, and maybe most importantly, how do you incentivize homegrown talent to continue to play League if their chances of going pro are not protected by their own region?
We will have another Korean champion after this coming weekend. That’s a fact. There is no indication that Korean dominance in League of Legends will let up any time soon. Balancing the regional competitiveness with a variety of other factors makes one think more deeply about what is important in the global League of Legends ecosystem.
Riot Announces Significant Structural Changes to the European LCS
The European League of Legends Championship Series (EULCS) announced significant structural changes heading into the 2018 season and beyond:
- The EU LCS will be transitioning to a partnership system (franchising) in 2019.
- In the meantime, EU LCS will be providing additional financial support to participant teams, ahead of a more fully fleshed out announcement regarding the partnership system selection process.
- The EU LCS will revert back to a Best-of-One (BO1) format for the 2018 season with teams playing each other twice in a double round-robin format. This is a change from the Best-of-3 format that the EU LCS employed in 2017.
- The EU LCS will be broadcast on Fridays & Saturdays. This is a change from the 2017 schedule which had broadcasts on Thursday/Friday/Saturday broadcast days. Games will also start later in the day.
- The EU LCS is eliminating mid-season promotions/relegations.
- European Challenger Series (second division) will be eliminated. In it’s stead, Riot will be creating a pan-European competition involving local country teams, which will culminate in continent-wide tournament that will run twice a year.
Well done Riot EU. These effective changes address many of the issues that pro teams and the community have rightly presented, such as a lack of economic stability for organizations and difficulty to follow league format for fans. Even though the Challenger Series changes were not described in detail, they seem like a much more reasonable solution than the 24-team, regionalized model that was leaked a few weeks ago.
We’ve addressed the topic of why Bo1’s are a better fit for competitive League of Legends than a Bo3 format when the NA LCS made the same move just a few short weeks ago. I also believe that this change, coupled with a franchising model and a revamped ‘farm system’ can ultimately make the EU LCS an exciting league (again), hopefully resulting in a significantly more viewed media product for a region that has a bigger player base than NA.
The structural economic changes announced seem to be a direct response to complaints from EU teams about a lack of support from Riot, and while no specifics were mentioned, the subsidies hopefully provide more stability to teams who face a dramatically more competitive player marketplace. Additionally, the removal of a potential mid-season relegation will allow these orgs to sign longer term partnerships and will improve their financial security enough to at least get them to the 2019 partnership process.
Overall, this seems like a non-controversial and reasonable decision for all stakeholders. Pro players get to enjoy a better market from teams who have more stability, while the community and fans have a more enjoyable viewing experience. It’s still too early to call this a win, but from my perspective Riot EU (finally) made all the right decisions.
PvE esports: has WoW found its niche?
In late September, Blizzard’s World of Warcraft held a Mythic Dungeon Invitational (MDI), the game’s first official player-versus-environment (PvE) tournament. Rather than having teams directly battle each other in an arena like in WoW’s Arena World Championship, the MDI had teams competing for faster runs through a dungeon.
For a period of two weeks leading up to the invitational, teams were urged to form and complete as many mythic+ keystone dungeons as they could at the highest level. Mythic+ keystone dungeons are the same dungeons that any player has access to, however, the health and damage of each enemy are increased, there are up to three new mechanics introduced, and the dungeon must be completed under a time limit in order to move on to an even higher level. After the two-week timeframe, the top eight teams from each region received invites to the MDI for a chance at a $100,000 prize pool.
Throughout the duration of the tournament, WoW generated over one million hours watched on Twitch, jumping up seven spots to number eight on Newzoo’s Top 10 Games on Twitch for the month of September. Having achieved over 200,000 total viewers during the MDI finals, many are confident that WoW PvE has established itself as a legitimate esport.
Upon learning of the MDI’s success, I was surprised that so many people tuned in to watch two teams going up against the same exact obstacles and executing extremely similar (if not the same) strategies to finish dungeons as quickly as possible. However, it began to make more sense when I thought about the big picture.
Today, it seems that many people often forget that esports began with PvE games—players used to compete for high scores on games like Pac-Man or Galaga at the arcade. Esports has since experienced a strong shift to PvP games like League of Legends and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. This move has proved extremely successful, as competition becomes more unpredictable and relates more to traditional sports.
However, there are certain aspects in PvE that PvP lacks, which is why I believe the MDI performed as well as it did. In PvE, fans have a more accurate perspective on just how difficult the content actually is. For example, in WoW, mythic+ keystone dungeons are accessible to just about any player. That is, most players are able to get a taste of the challenges each team in the MDI must face, and can engage with the competition on a more personal level. In PvP games like League of Legends, the majority of players are not able to get a good feel for what top competition feels like, because only the best of the best reach that level. Additionally, in PvE, players are competing, in essence, against the creators of the game. The creators have designed near-impossible content and challenged players to beat it. There is a different sense of accomplishment that one feels when he or she beats the game, rather than just another player.
The MDI was a huge success for WoW PvE, and we will undoubtedly see more of the same in the near future. By no means do I think that PvE competitions will ever surpass the overall popularity and profitability of PvP. I do, however, see more games aiming to establish themselves in PvE esports down the line–a refreshing change from PvP that takes competitive gaming back to its roots.