A Look at The Champion Diversity Problem in Competitive Play
With all the recent talk about balance, now is a good time to take a critical look at how balanced the game is and whether or not it’s getting better or worse. Champion diversity isn’t the only indicator of balance, but it’s the biggest one.
I’ll start with one of the biggest, if not the biggest, indicators-The World Championship. In Season 2: 58 out of 102 champions were picked in 31 games. In season 3: 62 out of 116 champions were picked in 63 games and in season 4: 61 out of 120 champions were picked in 78 games. Right off the bat, alarm bells are starting to ring. In S2 56.9% of the champions were picked or banned, in S3 its 53.4% and in S4 it’s 50.8%. This is even more alarming considering the fact that more games have been played at each Championship. Perhaps the truest indicators are these numbers from S4 Worlds: 90% of picks and bans went to top 29 champions; 71% of picks and bans went to top 17 champions; 52% of picks and bans went to top 10 champions. I doubt anyone could say, with a straight face, that this isn’t at least troubling if not appalling.
Let’s take a look at the EU and NA LCS, but please keep in mind that Leaguepedia doesn’t have data from all of the splits and regions, so I’ve worked with what I could find.
In the NA spring season playoffs of Season 3, 47 out of 111 champions were used in 20 games. In EU, 42 out of 111 champions were used in 15 games. In the EU summer playoffs, 41 out of 113 champions were used in 19 games.
In the NA summer playoffs of Season 4, 37 out of 116 champions were used in 29 games. In EU, 44 out of 116 champions were used in 26 games.
The same thing is happening with the LCS as with Worlds, more games are played each year with more total champions and yet the number of champions used has been decreasing.
In Dota 2 there is much more hero diversity. In the International of 2014, our World Championship equivalent, 100 out of 110 heroes were picked or banned in 255 games. People might say that if so many games were also played in the World Championship, then the number of picked or banned champions would be similar. I do think that more champions would’ve been picked or banned, but I don’t think the number would be much bigger because as shown above, with each passing year the number of games played and total champions have been increasing and yet the number of champions used has been decreasing. I don’t know much about Dota 2 and it might be worse off in some other aspects, but the fact that there is such a discrepancy in the number of champions used between the two games is worrisome.
People object that it's impossible to balance the champions in a way that all of them are used competitively. To that I say: don't be so complacent. I do think that it’s unrealistic to want all of the champions to be equally strong, but I do believe that Riot can do better. As I’ve pointed out, there was more champion diversity in Season 2 and 3 than in Season 4. We’re currently on a downwards balance trend, in terms of champion diversity, and it needs to stop.