Riot’s move to switch-up the LCS format ahead of the summer split was always going to experience teething issues. Yet with the competition now five weeks weeks deep, the ache shows no signs of fading – unsurprisingly, it’s the little guys who seem to taking the full brunt of the pain.
Riot don’t go out of their way to spite the lesser-known teams in the LCS, but if there was ever going to be collateral damage from the format shift, you would’ve been able to guess who’d get screwed over.
Riot have long since been searching for the ‘goldilocks layout’ for the west’s beloved LCS and the move to best-of-3’s for NA and best-of-2’s for EU was viewed with incredible optimism before its execution, with both community members and professional players hopeful that the reformed structure would finally give the region a competitive edge over their Korean overlords at international events.
“We think that the new-look NA and EU LCS 2016 formats will give teams valuable competitive experience and increase the level of entertainment for fans watching from home.”
Whether the western scene has truly benefitted remains to be seen, but there’s conclusive proof that the switch has seriously harmed the following of League’s lower-tier teams:
As reddit user /aronsld, outlines, the viewing figures for the LCS are taking are serious hit week after week:
North American LCS
Total Stream Viewers:
Week 1: 3,864,431
Week 2: 3,278,908
Week 3: 3,001,476
Week 4: 2,657,483
Week 5: 2,379,316
Total Stream Viewers:
Week 1: 2,589,742
Week 2: 2,215,023
Week 3: 1,992,708
Week 4: 1,958,456
Week 5: 1,783,555
Calm down, don’t panic, the LCS isn’t dying. The fact that an Esport is still averaging over 4 million viewers a week across EU and NA is still impressive but Riot urgently need to address some of the emerging trends from the viewing statistics.
Crucially, the lower tier teams have the least watched games in both regions. EnVyUs, Apex, Echo Fox, and P1 are among the least watched NA teams, whilst UOL, Splyce, Schalke and Giants are among the least watched teams in EU.
With so many games going on at the same time, people are forced to pick and choose the teams they wish to watch and then tune out to save their eyes from going square watching endless League of Legends… though we all know they just tab out to play a game themselves.
TSM games will always draw a crowd, as will Fnatic matches in EU matches, but fans are now less inclined to watch all day like they used to – there are simply too many games. Lower-tier teams have been stripped of their opportunity to engage with potential fans – a highlight reel simply doesn’t provide the same opportunity for players to display their personalities.
While Riot may argue the new formats provide better opportunity for international preparation, it has left the LCS’ underdogs in the dirt, without the community support they used to take as solace. Where the entire community would transition seamlessly from watching a marquee match like C9 vs TSM and stick around for TDK vs Renegades, bottom-tier games are now simply ignored.
Best-of-1’s may yet to prove to be the golden days of the LCS, showcasing every team on each day was an important part of growing the league from its infancy, particularly when team brands weren’t nearly as strong as they are today. The new formats have created a sour state of polarisation within the fanbase, removing the opportunity for the leagues new boys to establish any sort of following.