For the majority of the eSports era, League of Legends has reigned supreme in South Korea. After claiming the throne as the nation’s most popular game from the iconic Starcraft titles, Korea’s PC Bangs were filled with aspiring players grinding to establish themselves as professional League of Legends players. Riot Games’ title seemed insurmountable, but with the launch of Blizzard’s Overwatch in May 2016, the tides of popularity started to shift.
Overwatch’s dramatic rise in popularity after launch certainly caused a stir within the League of Legends community, notably in South Korea. Amidst a period where the state of the game felt stale and the professional scene had become predictable, summoners were logging out of their accounts and putting their hands in their pockets for Overwatch – it wasn’t long before Overwatch toppled LoL as the most popular game in South Korea’s PC Bangs.
Sceptics initially predicted that this trend would mark the demise of League of Legends, yet in the aftermath of the 2016 World Championship, the largest eSport title started to make a recovery. It took a while, but Riot Games has now recaptured the imagination of Korean gamers: rising up to 32 percent in Korean PC Bang play, marking the highest percentage for League of Legends at PC Bangs since June 13th 2016.
Meanwhile, Overwatch has slumped to 18 percent, a significant eight-point drop from the previous week, when it was at 26 percent. This is the first time sine May, just days after the game’s release, that Overwatch’s play percentage has dipped below 20 percent.
There are a number of possible explanations for Overwatch’s relative decline. The drop comes a little over a week after Blizzard introduced a strict ruling in Korea to ban foreign accounts, all Korea PC bang players are now required to hold the licenses of Blizzard games in order to play in different regions. North American accounts for instance, must purchase a copy of Overwatch before being allowed to play in a PC Bang.
In theory, this new practice will act as a deterrent for banned Korean players, who could previously make North American accounts and play Overwatch for free in PC Bangs. Whilst an effective measure to keep banned players out, the new regulations are likely to have dented the player-base statistics.
Additionally, the lull following the conclusion of the third competitive season of Overwatch could potentially affect players’ incentive to play Blizzard’s revolutionary title.
With League of Legends’ return to the summit of South Korea’s favourite eSports titles, the sceptical hysteria forecasting the games’ demise have paled into insignificance. Whether the game will permanently hold down the throne is a matter of speculation, given the variances in popularity that come with international tournaments and competitive off-seasons. One definitive statement that can be made however: League of Legends certainly isn’t a ‘dying game’.
The 15 Greatest Innovators In Competitive League of Legends