How League of Legends opened the doors to the eSports Dream in the West
Mon 17th Mar 2014 - 8:09pm
League of Legends was not the first game to be deeply connected with the eSports concept, it was not even the second. If you were born in the late 1980s or early 1990s and you really love video games then you might recognize names such as NaDa or Boxer, from the Korean Starcraft Scene, for instance. But if we’re talking about the rise of eSports in the West (namely North America and Europe ) then you have to bring up League of Legends in the discussion.
The topic that makes me believe that Riot Games’ League of Legends was the pioneer of western eSports is production. Sure we can argue that League of Legends has an absurd amount of fans, unprecedented maybe, but this to me is a weaker issue when compared to the one of producing the eSports Scene. First of all enjoying a game ultimately comes down to your own taste, and this as far as I see it is something that companies who produce video games have less influence on and, therefore, have less responsibility in managing or changing.
What I mean is that I don’t believe the League of Legends Competitive Scene has grown to this level of popularity simply because it is so much better than other games, because that comes down to taste. There are many great games around, including games who are in a direct “rivalry” with League of Legends and I believe a true video game fan can appreciate several aspects of different video games, while at the same time having their own personal and unique taste/opinion on all of them.
Where Riot has stepped up is in production. No game, ever, in the west, has been so well worked around presentation to make its competitive scene as enjoyable as any spectacle can be. The level in which resources are presented to us and used throughout a League of Legends broadcast is unmatched by any game in the west, be that in the past or present. Where Riot has really become the best is at absorbing the lessons from the likes of ESPN, FIFA or OGN and transporting those lessons to the west in order to create the first real glimpse, for both Europeans and North Americans, of what eSports can be.
More than create a video game broadcast, Riot Games creates an entire show around a series of games and this includes interviews, funny moments, analysis and fan engagement. They have built a perfectly functional Hype Machine, not only producing their show to generate hype and feed off hype - creating an unending cycle of enthusiasm - but also producing the people in it. The biggest stat difference between League of Legends and their closest rivals ( Dota2, Starcraft, etc ) doesn’t come down to how much value there is on the prize pool or on how many people will attend a live event from a specific game – The biggest difference is on how popular everyone that surrounds League of Legends is. From casters to players or some better known fans, these people are much more popular than their counterparts on other LoL rivals and this is an effect that shows us how good Riot’s production really is.
Riot’s work in producing the game - rather than just creating and patching it – culminated in 2013 where the All Star event was sold out and watched by more than 18 million people online and the World Finals in the famous Staples Center sold out all of its seats in a little over an hour. And if the venue had 8 times that capacity it would probably still be sold out. There is this feeling of alignment - between the company, fans, players and other staff – that Riot production brings together by combining all of the elements into this unparalleled hype machine we love so much. Riot is the pump that raises eSports higher, whilst at the same time constantly setting the standard for their competitors to follow and, until now, as far as production goes, Riot has them playing the catching game.