A Closer Look into LJL: Japan Emerging to the Scene
Fri 30th Jan 2015 - 8:28pm
Walking up to eSports square was certainly a shock. The League of Legends Japan League games started at 1 p.m that Saturday afternoon... And when I got there the line wrapped all the way up a street in Akihabara. This really set the tone for how League of Legends, and eSports in general, is sweeping the country.
It was standing room only inside eSports Square. They pushed their 200 person capacity almost instantly. The line was for waiting on a spot to squeeze in. After an hour and some change I finally made my way through the door, and packed was definitely an understatement. I made it in time for the last game, between DetonatioN FocusMe and CROOZ Rascal Jester.
"We weren't expecting there to be a wait to get in!" I had the chance to talk to LJL's eSports coordinator Sung Hwan "Ladecker" Kim, translated by Kai “KaiKaiKaiSauce” Sawada. They told me a little about the League and eSports in Japan.
So when did eSports really start to pick up here?
"We can't really say that we're big right now in the scene. But since 2014 the motivation has really ramped up! For now, we are still working on it... We just aren't that big yet."
Ladecker explained the history behind Japan's scene a little more. Starting from StarCraft and various FPS games, LJL began from scratch when a few of the guys wanted to try out this game called League of Legends. So they gathered some of their best players and took off from there. Gaming for them was always simply online based. Players never had the opportunity to go somewhere and play to a crowd and alongside others.
"It really gave our players motivation. Having an audience and just having that actual experience... It's just like a legitimate eSports event, and it has really given them the motivation."
I asked where they think they stand with the other regions, and Ladecker made mention of the servers they're playing on. Without a dedicated server for Japan, LJL operates on North America. Games include ping around 120-150 guaranteed. He says this puts them at a small disadvantage and the players here aren't quite ready to compete for the World Cup...
"Once we do get our own servers, I think the teams will be explosively better! I think it will be a year after we get the servers before that though." The CEO of Riot Japan announced the arrival of Japanese servers at the 2014 Tokyo Game Show, but there is no official date as of right now.
As for the jammed pack venue, Ladecker says they are planning to take the competition to other regions of Japan. They just can't say when or where yet, but when the information is available they will have it on their website.
LJL may just be starting to pick up steam but they're certainly on the right track. ESports Square offers a wonderful venue for the players, the overall product on stream looked amazing, and the fans are ready to cheer on the six teams working to make their mark on eSports.
When asked if there was anything else about LJL he wants people around the world to know, Ladecker said, "LJL is falling behind as far as play goes... But when it comes to our fans, motivation and attitude we won't lose to any region!"
It was a pleasure talking to everyone and I want to thank Kai and Ladecker for taking time for an interview. LJL had an awesome atmosphere, it's almost hard to describe. It is always great seeing people pumped for the game, but even more so for an exponentially growing scene that has begun planting its roots deep in to eSports. Their modesty was humbling - from what I saw the games were great and I wouldn't be surprised if Japan soon becomes a region our eyes will be glued to every week. I wish LJL the best of luck on their endeavors, and it was truly an honor to be able to attend.