Are you ready for some silly numbers? Riot have passed us an armful. Here’s the first: over 32 million fans watched League of Legends’ World Championship finals in October. That’s nearly four times as many as watched the Season 2 finals a year earlier - and makes the Season 3 World Championship the most-watched eSports event since records began.
At the show’s peak, more than 8.5 million fans were watching at the same time - some from the sold-out seats of the Staples Center, which ordinarily hosts proper-sports finals for the NBA and NHL, but most from home via Twitch.
“To put those numbers in context, the Season 2 World Championship was watched by 8.2 million fans, with 1.1 million watching at the same time,” wrote Riot in a blog post. “In short, we’re beyond humbled by your passion for and commitment to League of Legends.”
The numbers are testament not only to the MOBA’s enduring appeal as a team sport, but also to Riot’s efforts to push back the borders of eSports for everyone. Recent crossover successes like the Staples Center booking, sponsorship from American Express sponsorship and athlete VISAs for eSports pros have undoubtedly benefited their competitors, so it’s cosmos-affirming to see LoL benefit in kind.
In fact, I'd like to quote American Express' vice president of Enterprise Growth, Ian Swanson, if that's okay with you lot.
“What this means for eSports is that we're stepping up and saying this is no longer niche,” said Ian, announcing the company's sponsorship of the LCS finals.
“The real testament goes to the players and quality of the game Riot has produced. We're almost on the ground floor of eSports. In the next two to five years this thing is going to be much bigger than it is. And it's already tens of millions of people watching around the world.”
Hear hear. Where were you on the night of October 5? Watching SKT Telecom T1 be crowned best League of Legends team in the world, or picking your nose in passive defiance of the eSports zeitgeist?