League of Legends is becoming bigger and bigger every day, now reaching a broader audience than ever before with popular sports teams such as Schalke '04 and Beşiktaş competing in the competitive league. To understand why these "traditional" sport teams are joining the league, we need to understand what League of Legends is and how it works.
To learn why bigger organizations are joining League of Legends in their adventure to make eSports mainstream, we must take a closer look at the game itself and the complexity behind it.
"A game so addictive and stupid, that you cannot quit no matter what ." - Urban Dictionary
League of Legends is a competitive PvP multiplayer online battle arena also known as a MOBA. League of Legends (LoL) is played with five players on each team battling it out on one map - the Summoner's Rift. Here the players can each pick from one of the 131 characters, known as champions. The champions have their unique abilities and strategies that work together to complete the goal of the game, destroying the enemy nexus.
The nexus is a large crystal located in each team's respective base. The players on each team must work together to get closer to the enemy's base and ultimately destroy the nexus. During the teams' journey to the nexus, they encounter friendly and enemy minions, neutral monster and, of course, their opponents. By taking control of the map and gaining gold you grow an advantage over the enemy that you use to better them in the fights across the Summoner's Rift.
While the game might sound simple, the top players must know all of the champions' abilities and play styles in order to predict and out-play their enemies. At the same time, keeping the overview of the entire map and being ready for their next move is crucial to controlling the pace of the game and destroying the enemies nexus.
While Riot Games, the developer and publisher of LoL, may have not publicly released any player related numbers for their game in a long time, many speculate it is one of the most played PC games at the moment. The last time Riot Games publicly told the amount of League of Legend players was in early 2014 when 67 million played every month, 27 million every day, and over 7.5 million were playing at the same time during each day’s peak play time. While these numbers are vastly impressive one can only imagine these numbers have grown over time, like they have done in the past. Since 2014 Riot Games has added more located servers to deal with the possible increase in active users.
Not only are the players are breaking records for Riot Games, but so are the viewer. Many who play (or do not play) also love watching their favorite team compete in the weekly series and annual cups. The yearly record break world championship is a tournament where the best teams come together and battle it out in giant stadiums. With unique viewer counts reaching 36 million and peak concurrent views 14 million, the League of Legends world championships is the most viewed eSports event in history. The numbers may be impressive, but what's most exciting is the growth! Just from 2014 to 2015, the viewer count has grown by 9 million viewers, a 33% increase in viewer count in just one year.
The surge in viewership and millions of people daily playing the game, makes it much more clear as to why bigger organizations are choosing to compete in weekly tournaments trying to win their spot at the world championship. Showing their brand to a potential 36 million viewers or perhaps even more next year.
eSports is the competitive play of a video game. Undoubtedly, LoL has the biggest current eSports scene worldwide, with games being played every week in five different regions and concurrent viewing numbers reaching 200.000+ daily. The top 0.1% of players fight for a spot at the prestigious world championship where fame and a prize pool of $2,130,000 awaits them.
Before battling at the worlds, teams play a season of competitive LoL that consists of two splits, the summer and spring split, over the course of a split the teams play a double round robin bracket with a single elimination bracket during the play-offs to crown the split champions. The two best teams during these splits qualify for worlds, where all regions' top teams come together and determine who is the best team on the rift.
League of Legends has shown an impressive amount of growth over the course of its existence with player numbers ever growing since the beginning. The solid infrastructure created by Riot Games for its eSports scene gives an already existing organization great opportunities to brand themselves in the ever growing environment, exposing themselves to a new, bigger and more specific audience.
Over the course of its existence, Riot Games has impressed a lot of people by their pioneering work, creating opportunities for other eSports. Many eSports are now following LoL's match formats, broadcasting system or contract players similarly. Assuming Riot Games can continue growing in this spectacular fashion, a live TV broadcast of the 2016 world championship would not come as a surprise. Once eSports goes live to an even broader audience, the possibilities are endless, not only for Riot Games and LoL, but also for the teams competing in the league.
Are you excited for the growth of eSports?