As a part of a major statement regarding the competitive calendar for the 2017-2018 League of Legends season, Riot Games announced their featured title would no longer be participating in the Intel Extreme Masters tournament series. Whilst Riot Games’ decision marks a nostalgic end to an important relationship in the League of Legends’ eSports history, the game’s detachment from the IEM lineup has been long overdue.
The previously long-standing partnership between IEM and Riot Games dated back to 2011, when ESL first showcased League of Legends as part of the popular eSports tournament series. In recent years however, the disparity between Riot and ESL hosted events has become unsustainable: technical issues, lack of audience interest and a declining standard of competition have all contributed to IEM’s inevitable demise.
According to Riot Games’ official statement, it was no longer in the best interest of League of Legends eSports to be a part of the Intel Extreme Masters, due to the immediate schedule changes the company is preparing to implement, including the addition of the Rift Rivals tournament series to be held in July:
“League of Legends will no longer be a part of the Intel Extreme Masters (IEM series) for 2017-18.
“While we remember and cherish epic moments from the past, we believe that withdrawing for the upcoming season is the right way to go.
“We know that these changes shake up the international calendar, and while we’re excited to introduce a new brand event with Rift Rivals, we also wanted to give some insight into how we’re thinking long-term around domestic and international events.”
Riot Games Official Announcement
Given that IEM events were already considered to be an ‘inconvenience’ by many professional teams, it no longer made sense for LCS splits to accommodate events such as IEM Katowice, the production company’s flagship tournament. IEM quickly released their own statement, thanking fans for their continued support whilst leaving the door open for a potential return to League of Legends in future tournaments:
“[IEM] ha[s] taken a decision not to schedule IEM events around Riot’s LCS calendar.
“Working around those limitations didn’t seem like the right way to move forward. Our 2017 events won’t happen to be in a period where pro LCS teams are free to compete.
“In discussions with Riot it was also determined that LCS wouldn’t pause for Katowice. This means that for the first time since 2011 LoL won’t be there. I am sad I won’t see some of you there next year.
“League of Legends has been a major part of the growth of Intel Extreme Masters and has delivered some amazing memories.
“Thanks to anyone that’s watched all of our events, or just one. For anything we didn’t get right along the way, I apologize.”
IEM Official Announcement
Given the excitement and awe of the Riot Games produced World Championships and Mid-Season Invitationals, the League of Legends community has continually thirsted for additional international events. Recent IEM events however, have done little to quench that thirst.
Moments from the most recent tournament iteration, IEM Katowice ultimately served as the final nail in the coffin. The end of H2K-Gaming and Hong Kong eSports’ first game of a deciding series for instance – in which the camera inexplicably cut away from the exciting action prematurely, leaving both the audience and even the casters baffled as to what had happened – was an accurate depiction of what IEM League of Legends events had become:
Riot Games’ decision to cut ties with the IEM tournaments was a long overdue farewell. Though rather than placing too much emphasis on any damage the events may have inflicted on League of Legends’ eSports reputation in recent years, IEM should be remembered for the good tournaments the Intel Extreme Masters provided when the scene was just finding its feet.
IEM provided a valuable foundation for the development of the League of Legends professional scene: moments such as Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez’s backdoor, the Unicorns of Love devastating Team SoloMid and the emergence of the Moscow Five will live long in the memory. Though the relationship between League of Legends and IEM sadly had to end, the tournament should be remembered in high esteem as League of Legends continues to thrive and expand.
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