Riot Games is looking to make significant changes to the structure of its North American pro league, the LCS, according to a report by Travis Gafford. These changes appear to be addressing criticisms regarding the lack of stakes for the Spring Split, which in its current form runs as a short regular season with its own playoffs and finals, qualifying a team for the Mid-Season Invitational (one of Riot’s three annual international events).
According to Gafford, Riot will eliminate the Spring Split entirely, instead running a single regular season spanning the Spring and Summer. There will be an increased number of games during the season as teams will play each other five times total, up from the current total of four (twice in Spring, twice in Summer). This will also lead to an increase in broadcast hours, with the LCS running three full broadcast days each week, up from two full days with an additional “Monday Night Football”-style broadcast.
To qualify a team for MSI, Riot will hold a Spring Tournament (effectively the current Spring Split’s playoffs and finals event). There will also be a kickoff tournament at the start of the season.
Riot Games provided the following statement from LCS Commissioner Chris Greeley to Gafford:
“The LCS team is always listening to community feedback, and 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.”
The LCS saw its viewership grow this year, with the Summer Split’s peak viewership up 12.4% from 2019 and the Summer Finals’ average minute audience up 27.47% year-over-year. However, the league lagged significantly behind its European counterpart as the LEC’s Summer Finals saw AMA growth of 70% year-over-year – reaching 819.4K to the LCS’ 485K.
It is worth noting that both leagues have roughly identical formats, and the difference in their viewership may have more to do with the relative competitiveness of each region on an international stage. The LCS’ three representatives were eliminated in the group stage of the 2020 World Championship, while the LEC’s Fnatic survived to the quarterfinals, and G2 Esports made it to the semifinals, only losing to the eventual world champion Damwon Gaming.
Additionally, there has been some pushback from esports fans over the concept of a traditional sports-style weekly regular season of late. At the start of the year, the Call of Duty League received criticism from fans for its format which moved the game from a tournament circuit structure to a standard season format. The league responded to that feedback by reverting to a tournament system after just its first official weekend of matches. Riot’s potential new structure looks to perhaps marry the two structures by hosting two self-contained tournaments during the first half of the season.
Note: Riot Games Head of Esports Partnerships and Business Development for North America Matt Archambault will join Anzu.IO CEO Itamar Benedy to take part in the panel discussion, “In-Game Advertising and the Impact on Sponsorships,” at Esports Rising on Nov. 19. For tickets and to learn more about this annual event dedicated to the business of esports from Sports Business Journal and The Esports Observer, visit this link.