Nov 20 2013 - 6:46 pm

'League of Legends' championship becomes most-watched eSports event of all time

If you ask most people to name the world’s biggest sporting events, they’ll probably come up with the Super Bowl, the Olympics, or the World Cup
Aja Romano
Dot Esports

If you ask most people to name the world’s biggest sporting events, they’ll probably come up with the Super Bowl, the Olympics, or the World Cup. But the 32 million viewers who turned October’s League of Legends Championship Series into the largest eSports event in history may be changing the way we think about competitive sports.

League of Legends (LoL) is a wildly popular strategy-based game that lets online players form teams and compete in a virtual arena to destroy or be destroyed. This year’s competition also played out in a real arena, as 13,000 people crowded into Los Angeles’ Staples Center to watch the game unfold. 

But that was nothing compared to the legions of fans who tuned in online to watch the competition, which saw heavyweight Korean team SK Telecom T1 K (SKT) defeat the Chinese Royal Club. At one point as many as 8.5 million people were streaming the game at once, according to producers Riot Games. That number alone is more than the 8.1 million users, total, who tuned into last year’s games. This year, the Championship Series finals attracted a staggering 32 million total viewers.

To put that number in perspective, that’s a whopping 30 percent of the audience for this year’s Super Bowl, and more than double the average viewership for this year’s World Series.

Whatever you may think about the world of competitive gaming, it’s as intense a sport as any that requires real athletic skill. Professional teams can take home prizes of more than $1 million, and this year’s LoL tournament boasted the second-highest tournament pool ever, at just above $2 million. League of Legends, which is free to play, is generally considered the most popular eSport, with more than 40 million players worldwide. 

At this year’s Season 3 LoL championship, the atmosphere was as heady—and as showy—as any major professional sport. “The incredible event at the Staples Center last night mirrored the most dedicated fans' intensity and passion for eSports,” wrote Josh Augustine at PCGamesN. “[I]t's no longer wishful thinking to believe that eSports's legends-in-the-making... will soon join the ranks of [other] immortalized athletes.”

The legitimacy of eSports is also getting a boost from the growth of gaming as a whole. Barely a month apart, Grand Theft Auto 5 and Call of Duty: Ghosts both broke records for first-day sales, each claiming sales of over $1 billion in the first 24 hours. The global gaming industry is projected to reach $83 billion over the next three years, with fully a third of that coming from massive multi-player games like League of Legends and Dota 2.

$83 billion may not sound like much, but it’s about 7 percent of the worth of the entire global sports industry—not bad for a hobby still considered a fringe pursuit rather than a mainstream phenomenon.

When twice as many people would rather watch guys named Faker and Impact throw magic attacks around a grassy virtual battlefield while the clock warns you that you have “30 seconds until minions spawn!” than watch the Great American Pastime (yawn), we might need to begin rethinking what makes a sport a sport.

And perhaps accept that our greatest pastimes are rapidly becoming virtual ones.

Photo via chris-yunker/Flickr

Today - 12:04 am

The new LCK meta: Singed top?

LCK Season 7 kicked off last night, giving us an early look at the new 10-ban meta.
Xing Li
Dot Esports
Image via Riot Games

Competitive League is back. Most professional leagues kick off the Spring Split later this week, with League of Legends Champions Korea getting the ball rolling last night. After a crazy offseason, we finally get to see what the pros make of the meta, how they’ll play around overpowered tanks, and what they’ll do with jungle plants.

One of the key questions going into this season was what the new draft phase would look like with the implementation of 10 bans (5 per team). We saw some of the effects of that last night. The first match involved a fascinating storyline with the ROX Tigers facing former top laner Song "Smeb" Kyung-ho for the first time.

But from a meta perspective, the more interesting match started after Smeb and KT walked off with a win. That’s when Longzhu Gaming and Samsung Galaxy both busted out pocket picks.

Wait, what? Singed top?

The craziness started in game one, when Samsung, playing on the red side (and picking second), inexplicably left Rengar available. That allowed Longzhu to first-pick the terrifying jungle assassin. In return though, they got Ezreal, Poppy, Zyra, and Viktor, strong picks themselves and ones that Samsung is familiar with.

Then with the last pick, top laner Gu "Expession" Bon-taek went with Singed.

Singed is fun and unique champion who can push minion waves in a way few champions can match. His mechanics have led to some pretty ridiculous strategies. But he’s not known in professional play because of his low overall damage and uselessness in team fights. Singed players typically play with a one-versus-five mentality, something that usually doesn’t agree with the typical Korean focus on team cohesion.

For Longzhu, Singed was honestly an afterthought for most of the game. That’s because Rengar took over. Lee "Crash" Dong-woo was all over Kang "Ambition" Chan-yong’s Lee Sin from the start, taking over the blue side jungle and enabling his bot lane to push with impunity.

That can be risky against Samsung’s strong solo laners, but it paid off as the Longzhu duo roamed around for turret after turret. Kim "PraY" Jong-in’s Jhin was absolutely incredible, pushing people off turrets and sniping them from range.

Samsung tried to turtle and defend, but that’s where Singed came in. Having built Zz’rot portal, he made life hell for Lee "CuVee" Seong-jin’s Poppy. Poppy wants to teamfight, but with Singed constantly pushing, CuVee had no priority and Longzhu romped.

We are not sure that Singed will continue to be a popular pick; he’s too easy to camp if there isn’t pressure elsewhere. But we’re also excited to see more team strategies being built around previously off-meta champions. 

More pocket picks to come

Image via Riot Games

Samsung responded in game two with a new champion: Camille somehow made it through the first ban phase. But then Longzhu came back with a counter pick of their own: Jax.

This game was what 10 bans was all about. It was incredibly fun watching these two top laners duel. At first, Camille had the upper hand, taking on Jax and then Song "Fly" Young-jun’s Ekko, beating both. But after Jax got a couple items, he became the stronger bruiser, getting a solo kill back. Stuns, dashes, and ults combined in a terrific dance. It was an incredible display of skill from two players and everything we hoped 10 bans could be.

Game 3 was a more straightforward Samsung win, but we got even more champions. New jungler Kang "Haru" Min-seung picked Kha’zix, and a level one invade got him first blood. In the mid lane, Lee "Crown" Min-ho picked Corki, someone we hadn’t seen in a some time. His range advantage kept Fly pushed in and Samsung played a steady game to win.

Three games, full of creative strategies and pocket picks. This is likely what Riot envisioned when they moved to the 10 ban system. But of course, these are the highest skilled players in the world—can players in Europe and North America, perhaps with smaller champion pools, recreate the success we saw last night?

In just a few days, we’ll find out.

Jan 17 2017 - 10:33 pm

These are the first four teams confirmed for the IEM World Championship

Eight teams will be competing at one of the largest international League of Legends events.
Sam Nordmark
Writer at @dotesports
Photo via Riot Games

Half of the teams slated to compete at one of League of Legend's largest international events in 2017 have been announced.

The IEM World Championship will once conclude at IEM Katowice in Poland in March after roughly four months worth of competiton across three international events. Eight teams in total will be attending the event. Earlier today ESL revealed the first half that are slated to compete at the event.

The first four teams that will attend are Europe's H2K and Unicorns of Love, North Americans Cloud9 and lastly the Eastern European M19 squad, which was formerly known as Albus NoX Luna.

A majority of teams attending the event have been invited based off of their performance in the 2016 League World Championship. Additionally the victors at IEM's events in Oakland and Gyeonggi, which were won by Unicorns of Love and Samsung Galaxy respectively.

Reigning world champions SKT T1 and Chinese supersquad EDward Gaming have also secured invites to the event after reaching the quarterfinals of the 2016 World Championship, but have not confirmed their participation yet.

Eight teams will be competing at the event in total, though the final contestants are yet to be decided. None of the competitors representing the East Asian League Master Series were able to advance from the group stage. They also failed to qualify through IEM Oakland or Gyeonggi.

The IEM World Championship will take place from Feb. 22 to 26.