After Albus NoX Luna’s strong showing at the 2016 World Championships, there is both a great deal of uncertainty and excitement surrounding the wildcard regions’ prospects on the international stage. Shortly after reaching the quarterfinals, the ANX team was acquired by the M19 brand, sponsored by Strongbow for a whopping $22 million dollars and provided with an estate gaming house to boot. All eyes are on the wildcard regions, with investors ready to stick their hands in the pockets for the emerging scenes.
Albus Nox Luna made an impressive run through Worlds 2015, taking down the number 1 seed from South Korea on their journey across North America. Lead by their iconic Support Kirill “Likkrit” Malofeev, ANX employed a number of unique strategies as they caught their opponents cold, securing a second seed spot in what was anticipated to be an impossible group.
The roster from the CIS region dismantled G2 eSports, Counter Logic Gaming and even took a game off the Korean powerhouse ROX Tigers as sceptic’s of Riot’s wildcard regions were instantly bowled over; critics became fans and even investors.
It has always been common knowledge that Russian teams had the potential to be eSports juggernauts. After the dominating reign of Moscow 5 in Europe, it was a matter of time before Russian team’s rose to prominence once more. It is not just M19 who are looking to break the stigma associated with the wildcard regions, even the Gambit organisation are still clinging to existence, hoping to relaunch their brand with an impact on the world stage.
The difficulty for investors is to measure the benefits of supporting these regions with such large investments – $22 million dollars isn’t something you banally fritter away on a whim. Strongbow evidently have faith in the previously failing region, in a press conference, Andrei Mikheyev the owner of M19, revealed the new sponsor and even hinted at more sponsors to follow in the future.
With many of Strongbow’s investment partners (who deal mainly in real estate) looking to invest in the team, with extensive background support, it’s hard not to anticipate a team with natural talent rising in the global rankings.
Can money immediately prompt a team to perform on the international stage? Money certainly does not guarantee success, at any level. A prime example of this mantra: the NA LCS’ Team Liquid.
Liquid announced a number of NBA sponsors in the twilight of 2016, including none other than the global sporting icon, Magic Johnson. Using this newfound investment the team’s management opted to splash the cash on revered Korean Kim “Reignover” Ui-jin, hailed as one of the best Junglers in the game.
Team Liquid hoped to utilise previous star Chae “Piglet” Gwang-Jin and their new addition Reignover to dominate the North American scene, cut to present day and Team Liquid are struggling to string together a series of wins in the North American LCS.
Irregardless, adapting from a shoe-string budget to a $22 million investment is certainly going to change players attitudes towards the game. Whether this is the kind of investment that the team, or even the wider CIS region, will benefit from will become evident as the season approaches the World Championship spectacle. The reemergence of Russia as an eSports powerhouse is a phenomenon League of Legends fans have been longing for.