How League of Legends (LOL) approaches its competitive eSports scenes.
It is an exciting time of the year for esports with many of the world’s biggest esports competitions just around the corner. As the world starts to catch on to what has been brewing in the competitive esports scene, esports prize pools are skyrocketing. The total prize money awarded is at just under $450 million USD ($447,228,607.18 as of June 25th) and threatens to surpass half a billion dollars by the end of 2018. With that in mind, we take a look at the biggest esports in recent years and how their respective competitive scenes are operated in terms of the types of competitions they have, how they are qualified for and how often they occur to better understand what fans can expect from their favorite competitive eSport titles.
The video games discussed here makeup 6 of the top 7 esports in 2017 in terms of the prize pools of their esports competitions, which will be listed from lowest to highest. In part three of this 5 part series we will be discussing League of Legends that comes in at third with the third highest prize pool of all MOBAs. Check out Part I and Part II to find out who LoL left befind.
League of Legends (LOL)
League of Legends is famous throughout the world as the most popular video game with over 100 Million monthly active players at one point. Made in 2009 as one of the first premier games based on the emerging MOBA genre, initiating from the Aeon of Strife mod for StarCraft and then Defense of the Ancients for Warcraft. Through the hard work of two gamers at university and two of the original members of the development and support team for DotA, Riot Games was founded for the creation of what would grow and develop into the most played video game in history.
It has since enthralled gamers around the world with its fast-paced gameplay and is synonymous with esports for many gamers. Despite not having the largest prize pools (LoL awarded over $12 Million USD in prize money in 2017, and just under $54 Million USD in total), the game has been one of the biggest representatives of esports and showcases the growing scene in a big way.
League of Legends Championship Series (LCS)
One of – if not the – longest running esports competitive leagues is Riot Games’ LCS, which includes twenty participating teams, split into the European LoL Championship Series (EU LCS), and the North American LoL Championship Series (NA LCS). The series run parallel and are almost identical, with a few minor differences in terms of qualification for tournaments. Regular season play is split into two stages, the Spring Split, and the Summer Split. Each of the ten teams plays each other once, with one game a week, totalling a 9-week season for each split.
Upon the conclusion of each season, there is a series of playoffs between the top 6 teams in a round robin style. 3rd place plays 6th place and 4th place plays 5th, with the winner advancing to play the pre-seeded top 2. This leads to a grand final and 3rd place match with $200 000 USD in prize money on the line in 2018. The top 3 teams proceed to the Rift Rivals, where the teams represent their league (NA or EU) to determine the winning region, in addition to a separate 2v2 competition featuring 2 players from each team battling it out to prove their supremacy. The tournament involved $75 000 USD in 2018 and is a great warmup for the first-placed teams right before they compete at the 2nd largest tournament of the year.
The League of Legends MSI is a superb indicator of the true depth of the League of Legends competitive scene. Despite NA LCS and EU LCS being the premier leagues for professional LoL, only 1 team from each qualifies for the Invitational. The remaining teams come from the other dozen regional leagues, with many of them awarding even more prize money than the EU and NA leagues. The LoL Pro League (for teams in the China region) boasted a prize pool of over $550 000 USD in 2018, while LoL Champions Korea offered over $275 000 USD.
Other major regions include the LoL Master Series (Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau) and Vietnam Championship Series; with smaller leagues covering Turkey, North Latin America, South Latin America, Japan, Brazil, CIS and Baltic States, South-East Asia and Oceania. The winner of each league qualifies for the Invitational – but is seeded at different stages throughout the tournament. The 8 smaller regions enter the Play-In Groups, where the two winners of the two groups progress to the Play-In Knockout against the LMS (LoL Master Series) and VCS (Vietnam Championship Series) winners.
The two teams that progress then reach the group stage and are joined by the winners of the EU, NA, China and Korean leagues. The bottom two teams in the group stage are eliminated, leaving only the top 4 after a long road to the top. The remaining teams then face a knockout stage that crows the winning team and awards them the lion’s share in the 2nd largest prize pool of the year, $1 370 250 USD in 2018.
LoL World Championship
After the culmination of the first half of the season, teams get stuck back into some regular league play for the Summer Split. Teams compete for another 9 weeks against each other, with the entire season culminating in one of the biggest events of the year for esports: The League of Legends World Championship. Featuring 24 of the best teams from around the world who qualify in and compete in a similar set of progressive stages as the MSI, it is a blockbuster event with over 100 Million unique viewers for Worlds 2017, a record broken only by MSI 2018, with over 125 Million viewers for the mid-season event. Last year’s prize pool came in at just under $4.6 Million USD, with a first prize of over $1.7 Million USD. This event is on track to make history once again, and you wouldn’t want to miss it.
What Else Is There?
This is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to League’s competitive scene and there are many more tournaments and leagues for the different regions and tiers of pro teams. The Rift Rivals held before the MSI are not exclusive to a competition between NA and EU, with there being three more events for various leagues. In Brazil, the rivalry is fought out between the North and South Latin America leagues and Brazil itself. In Australia the competition is between the Oceanic, South-East Asian and Japanese leagues, while in Vietnam the CIS, Turkish and Vietnamese battle it out for their Rift Rivals series. The final series is between the Korean, Chinese and Taiwan/Hong Kong/Macau leagues.
The prizes range from $42 500 USD to $72 000 USD and give a chance for some of the smaller leagues to shine on the main stage. Riot also gives the opportunity for up and coming teams and players to prove their worth and possibly enter the highest echelons of the LoL professional scene through the League Academy Championship Series and the NA Scouting Grounds. The Academy Championship Series involves a developing team under the banner of the regular NA organisations who compete in a regular season and a playoff season and acts as a primary pathway for players to join the NA LCS.
The Scouting Grounds, on the other hand, is an exciting competition that takes the top 20 solo queue players in North America and drafts them on to four teams, which are then coached by one of the top organisations. The teams will train and practice before competing in a round-robin tournament. This precedes the Scouting Grounds Draft, where each of the ten NA teams will have the opportunity to draft one player from the twenty selected.
As an esport that breaks records year after year, there’s no sign of slowing for League of Legends, especially when supported by Riot’s incredibly deep and broad competitive scene with multiple regions and leagues at every level. Such involvement has created an abundance of esports events and competition to the joy of fans and those that one day may see themselves competing amongst it.
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