The eSports world is growing at an alarming rate, with new games, rules and rosters being added to the scene at a pace which is simply too rapid for many casual observers to even keep up with. A decade ago, the thought of video game tournaments being able to fill up arenas like Madison Square Garden was unheard of, but now it has become reality, and while many games may come and go from the scene, one title has managed to cement its status in the bedrock of the competitive gaming industry: League of Legends.
Developed by Riot Games and released back in 2009, League quickly earned the attention of competitive gamers and went on to become one of the biggest hits in the eSports world, with the rich gameplay and almost limitless possibilities giving gamers the chance to play the way they want to play and develop new strategies to defeat their opponents. Riot Games launched the League Championship Series (LCS), allowing professional teams from all over North America and Europe to compete for a prize pool of several million dollars.
The Three Main Changes From League of Legends
Recently, Riot Games announced some big changes to the North American LCS. These changes have been introduced in order to offer more security, more cash, and more control to NA players and franchises. So what are these rules? Well, the first one concerns the way the league is structured. Normally, teams that perform badly could be relegated from the league; a daunting prospect for franchises that put a lot of money into the game and don’t want to risk suffering big financial losses. So, in 2018, the league will change to feature a set of permanent teams. New players will still have a chance to break into the big leagues via the new Academy League.
The next change concerns the players directly, introducing a new minimum salary for each player. Starting in 2018, all players will be paid a minimum of $75,000 per year. The current baseline is around $25,000, so this is a huge change and Riot has also announced that all pro players will earn at least 35% of the total revenue of the league. LCS teams will also have a requirement to put some of their sponsorship and additional funds back into the league, and Riot will return the favor by sharing the cash it earns from media, in-game sales, etc.
The third and final change is also focused on the players. Riot is launching a Players’ Association (PA), offering players all sorts of help and advice from life skills training, financial planning, legal aid and more. Players will be able to use the PA to communicate directly with Riot, offering additional security and control to every professional playing in the league. Riot understands that eSports isn’t a lifelong career choice and players need help with their education and other important skills to prepare for a life after gaming, so this is a great new change and could set the standard for eSports in North America.
The Effect on North American eSports
Until this point, the North American eSports scene has been severely lacking regulation. Players had little to no guarantees of security, income or stability, but these new LCS rules are paving the way for a better future for the world of competitive gaming. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see other big games like Counter-Strike: Global Offensive or Overwatch following in Riot’s footsteps and implementing some similar rules.
When we compare eSports in the US to South Korea, it’s clear that the North American scene still has a way to go. Over in South Korea, eSports has been a cultural phenomenon for many years, with individual players treated with the same reverence as NFL stars and big matches broadcast on TV to millions of viewers. It’s no surprise that the South Korean also tend to dominate most global competitions, including the League of Legends World Championships.
South Korea has various systems and regulations in place to give players the sort of status and stability that just isn’t possible right now in North America, where groups like the Professional eSports Association and the World eSports Association have barely begun to start introducing new rules and regulations to try and establish some sort of standard for the industry. So it’s clear that the North American scene has a lot to do if it wants to catch up with South Korea, but these new LCS rules are a great start.
CEOs of some of the biggest teams in the LCS have commented favorably on the new rules. Steve Arhancet, co-CEO of Team Liquid, called the move a “positive step for the NA LCS”, commending Riot for doing proper research and consulting extensively with different teams to ensure that everyone was on the same page. Arhancet summed up his views by saying that “a league of 10 franchise teams should give us a better, more competitive league with cool developments that parallel other pro sports”.
The CEO of Team Dignitas, Jonathan Kemp, was equally pleased, stating that this new level of stability was much-needed by players and teams. Kemp added that the next year should be a great one for the LCS. Finally, Robert Yip, the LCS Performance Coach for Immortals, was particularly pleased by the addition of the Academy League, giving teams a chance to test out up-and-coming players who might not otherwise have had their chance to compete in the pro leagues. Yip also commented that the new franchising rules would allow players to balance their eSports careers with their private and academic lives, allowing them to seek college education and other hobbies on the side.
Clearly, these new changes are a big boost for the LCS and the eSports community in general. Players and team owners all seem to be thrilled with the news and are excited for the 2018 season to get underway. In the meantime, eSports followers will have to wait and see whether other competitive leagues and associations start to introduce similar rules to add some much-needed regulation to the North American eSports industry.