Riot reportedly overhauling LCS format heading into 2021 - Dexerto
League of Legends

Riot reportedly overhauling LCS format heading into 2021

Published: 5/Nov/2020 5:20 Updated: 5/Nov/2020 5:44

by Isaac McIntyre

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Riot Games is reportedly considering shifting North America’s premier League of Legends competition, the LCS, to a single, year-long season from 2021 onwards, in a swap that will see all 10 franchised teams play each other five times.

These reports, which were first revealed by Travis Gafford, suggest Riot will do away with Spring Split completely heading into next year. The LCS will instead be run as a long season, with a break midway through for the Mid-Season Invitational.

The LCS team tasked with representing NA at MSI will be selected from a mid-season playoff event between the top six teams ahead of the break, the reports suggest.

Riot is also reportedly planning to host LCS broadcast days on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays, with each gameday “full of games.” The full season would then see each LCS team play an estimated 45 matches across around 30 game weeks.

Finally, each calendar season will reportedly begin with a ‘preseason tournament,’ similar to the South Korea KeSPA Cup, or Overwatch League’s preseason playoffs. It is not yet clear if just LCS teams would participate in that early event.

This LCS switch may also eventually be packaged with a single-platform broadcast deal; Gafford listed Twitch, YouTube, Caffeine, and more as potential suitors.

LCS changes have been demanding changes since the League of Legends offseason began.
Riot Games
LCS changes have been demanding changes since the League of Legends offseason began.

LCS Academy also comes under microscope

According to the reports, the top-level LCS competition won’t be the only North American league coming under the microscope either. The current Academy system will also “get a lot smaller,” the reports suggest, with less overall games.

“Riot are planning to open up play between Academy teams and amateur lineups right now, so that the line can blur a bit more,” Gafford explained in his Nov. 4 video.

The idea behind this, Dexerto believes, is to provide a clearer pathway from the bottom of the League of Legends ecosystem all the way to the LCS system. Right now the Academy league acts as a semi-closed system for around 50 players.

North America, and especially TSM, failed to make their mark at Worlds 2020.
Riot Games
North America, and especially TSM, failed to make their mark at Worlds 2020.

North America struggled at the 2020 World Championship. TSM finished 0-6, making history as the first top-seed team to do so. FlyQuest and Team Liquid fared better with 3-3 records, but both failed to make it to quarterfinals in Shanghai.

While Riot Games has yet to confirm any of the rumored changes, they did provide a statement on the reports.

LCS commissioner Chris Greeley said, “The LCS team is always listening to community feedback. We evaluate potential new changes to our format every offseason. As always, we’ll have more information on the upcoming season closer to its start date.”

It’s worth keeping in mind, these LCS changes are not yet locked in, and things may still change. Dexerto will keep you updated on the situation as it unfolds.

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Adam Fitch: Sorry Dr Disrespect, mobile esports are thriving

Published: 27/Nov/2020 17:00

by Adam Fitch

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Earlier in November 2020, streamer Dr Disrespect spoke down towards mobile gamers on Twitter by questioning how it could be a “serious thing” — however, he’s just failing to understand how popular competition on mobile already is.

While mobile gamers and industry figures alike came to the defense of mobile gaming when the Two-Time took aim at the platform, there’s still a serious misconception around mobile esports and the success it’s already achieved.

Firstly, it’s worthwhile addressing the “serious” comment from Doc. While mobile devices perhaps don’t allow for precision that PCs do, there’s still a major skill gap between average and professional players and that lends itself perfectly to competition. The most common and widely-accepted definition of esports is a “video game played competitively for spectators,” mobile tournaments meet such a criteria on a daily basis and it’s already serious to hundreds of thousands of viewers on a weekly basis.

This skepticism from one of the faces of gaming is emblematic of a larger problem of platform elitism that plagues gaming on all levels. Ever since the popularization of esports there has been debate between console and PC gaming, centering around not only which type of players are better but whether console esports have unfair advantages due to features such as aim assist.

Ezreal in League of Legends Wild Rift
Riot Games
The most popular esports title, League of Legends, arrived on mobile in October 2020.

Tribalism is also a factor in this spritely, never-ending discussion, with players grouping together based on their platform of choice and nonsensically taking aim at those who have other preferences.

The only time in which such a debate would be productive is if cross-platform play is embraced in serious competition, which seems to be a long way away from ever becoming a reality. Fortnite developers Epic Games received plenty of criticism when implementing this feature in casual play, never mind in their esports activities, so it’s probably safe to assume no companies are rushing to make this a reality for the time being.

Infrastructure matters

Something that all good games need to be viable on a competitive level is infrastructure. Creating an appropriate structure for esports initiatives is important, whether it’s by a game’s developer or a third-party tournament organizer.

A great example of this in the realm of mobile esports is Clash Royale, one of the more popular titles from Finnish developers Supercell. The real-time strategy game has its own official team-based league from the company themselves, with top-tier gameplay spanning nine weeks and culminating in a year-ending world championship. This level of support and structure actually goes beyond what some PC and console games receive.

On the third-party organizer front, especially in the West, you only have to look as far as ESL to see how seriously mobile esports is being taken. As well as hosting regular online events for the likes of Call of Duty: Mobile, Clash of Clans, Brawls Stars, and Clash Royale, they have the ESL Mobile Open for elite players.

Clash Royale League World Finals
Supercell
The Clash Royale League World Finals are always a spectacle, rivaling events in almost any other game.

Recently incorporating the Middle East and North Africa into the European arm of the competition, it’s said that ESL hosted over 500,000 players in the inaugural season alone. The second season involves PUBG Mobile, Auto Chess, Asphalt 9: Legends, and Clash of Clans, and will be expecting even more success with the widening of the player base.

In North America, the Mobile Open from ESL is already in its sixth season and has a headline sponsorship from the world’s largest telecommunications company, AT&T. There are other examples of infrastructure being fleshed out for mobile titles, but you get the gist.

A sight for sore eyes

One major factor of how we define success in esports is viewership. With a healthy amount of eyeballs on a product comes sponsorship opportunities, bragging rights, and further validation that fans are interested in watching the elite face off against each other.

With that in mind, it’s never been clearer that mobile esports isn’t just a major part of the future of the industry — it has already arrived. According to analytics agency Esports Charts, mobile events made up three of the five most popular tournaments in October 2020. This happened alongside the League of Legends World Championship taking place, which is not only one of the most anticipated occasions in the esports calendar but as it turned out to be one of the only LAN events we’d seen in six months.

Garena Free Fire
Garena
Free Fire hit a record of 100 million peak daily users earlier in 2020.

Asia and Latin America are where mobile esports are truly thriving at the moment, rivaling the popularity of any other title you decide to compare them with. This is proven from last month’s peak viewership statistics, where MOBA title Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and battle royale game Garena Free Fire occupied three of the top five placements.

Ryan ‘Fwiz’ Wyatt, the head of gaming at YouTube, posted a thread on Twitter on November 26 backed up the sheer popularity of Free Fire on the platform. In 2019, it was YouTube’s fourth most-viewed game and it’s proving to have some longevity considering its monthly viewership peaked in October 2020.

While this level of success isn’t replicated across all regions just yet, that’s how esports typically work. Call of Duty and Counter-Strike are mainly popular among those in North America and Europe, for example, which is reflected in the demographics of both the top-level players and the viewership alike. The same applies to mobile but it’s not an excuse for ignorance.

The future?

Mobile devices are generally more accessible than a high-end computer or new-generation gaming console so there’s a much higher ceiling on participation in mobile esports by default. Whether adoption from mobile users does indeed propel it into becoming the de facto competitive option is yet to be seen, but such potential can’t be ignored.

With viewership rivaling (and even oftentimes besting) that from console and PC esports alike, it’s sheer ignorance to state that mobile gaming isn’t already a major player in the industry. If you fail to see that from the investment that’s being funneled into mobile titles, or the number of people who already enjoy playing and spectating, then perhaps you’d like to argue that grass isn’t green too.