This year’s North American LCS playoffs have been tumultuous and surprising. Teams like Curse and CLG had built strong new rosters for the 2014 season, and made commendable efforts to recapture old glories. But that wasn’t enough to keep some of the scene’s favourite personalities from dropping out of the Championship early.
Their relegations have made an old question more pertinent than ever. Deep prize pools may make the headlines in eSports – but how do Riot plan to support the also-rans?
“We want to build an ecosystem where teams who make it into LCS are ready,” said Riot head of EU eSports Jason Yeh. “And when teams get relegated out of LCS they don’t just disappear from the business.”
The Championship prize pool Riot have announced for Worlds is just a “small percentage” of the studio’s overall investment in League of Legends’ eSports ecosystem.
“Because at the end of the day the teams that qualify for Worlds are the teams that have been there the longest, that have known players,” Yeh told PCGamesN. “They have a lot of business opportunities around the fact that they’re good at the game and they’re popular. So those are the teams that need prize money the least.”
Riot’s idea isn’t to reward only those players who are already financially stable, then. Instead, Yeah wants prize money to form just a small part of annual earnings made up largely from salary and endorsements. That way, LoL’s ecosystem will support lots of teams in each region – and they won’t all need to be winning year-in, year-out.
“Operating a League of Legends team should be a profitable venture for the team,” said Yeh. “Whether it’s through sponsorship, whether it’s through media opportunities, whether it’s through merchandising.”
Riot’s first step toward that distant goal is the Challenger series. The Riot-supported “minor league” will allow teams to go professional before they make it into the LCS, Yeh hopes.
“A lot of these teams, previously the manager had just been the best friend of the leader of the team and didn’t take practice very seriously,” he said. “I think now we’re seeing that Challenger series teams practice together [and] live in the same house.”
Do you think it’ll work?