Riot VP of eSports Dustin Beck had a long chat with GameSpot’s Rod “Slasher” Breslau and gave us a glimpse into some of of Riot’s plans for a “significantly larger” League of Legends Season 3. While Season 2’s playoffs are under way right now, Season 3 will feature a two-tiered competition between a Riot-managed Championship Series with tons of regular season matches, and a Challenger Series built around IEM, IPL, and MLG.
The whole interview is well worth reading, but there are a few interesting takeaways. First, Beck put to rest the allegation that Riot were asking pro teams to sign exclusivity agreements that would force pro teams to choose between MOBA games like League of Legends and Dota 2. He reiterated that while the pro players on each squad have to commit to the Championship Series, the team organizations do not.
It dovetailed with the live-and-let-live tone he took with regard to Dota / LoL competition. When asked about the hostility between the Dota and LoL communities, Beck joked, “Haters gonna hate. But seriously, I think what you’re talking about is the same type of friction we’ve always seen between fans of rival consoles, games, sports franchises, and so on. …In our view, it’s pretty awesome that so many big and respected game companies are getting behind eSports.”
The real crux of the conversation, however, centered on the tension between Riot’s position as the developer of League of Legends and as the owner and organizer of the most important League of Legends professional event. Riot is now directly signing players to Championship Series contracts, and is also making deals with leagues like MLG, ESL, and IPL to guarantee their events don’t clash with Championship Series events.
Beck rejected Breslau’s suggestion that the pro leagues were being relegated to minor league status. “Minor leagues’ is definitely the wrong way to characterize it. In fact, prize money at these events is going to getting bigger,” he said. “It’s more similar to how soccer is structured in many countries, with a Series A and a Series B. There’s relegation between the two series at regular intervals throughout each season, ensuring that the best teams are in the top league. It’ll work the same for the relationship between the Challenger Circuit and Championship Series.”
It will be interesting to see how Season 3 works in practice. We’ve already seen how the Championship Series created problems for MLG when Curse and Dignitas were accused of match-fixing and opened the final with an All-Random, All-Mid melee, a debacle the occurred because MLG’s Raleigh championship was, for top LoL teams, a prelude to the North American Finals.
Separating those two circuits should prevent that kind of conflict and meta-gaming, and Beck certainly makes it sound like Riot does not want to supplant existing teams and leagues. He reiterated that Riot will be increasing its commitment to the other leagues in terms of prize money, in addition to increasing the stakes for Season 3.
Riot know they are the 800-lb gorilla in professional League of Legends, but with the plans Beck laid-out for Season 3, they’re doing their best to make sure that Riot’s eSports business grows with the competitive scene, not at its expense.