The League of Legends 2023 Mid-Season Invitational moved into the bracket stage on May 9 as G2 Esports and Gen.G took to the Rift, and while the stakes were higher than ever given the event’s new format, the bracket opener saw a turnout of epic proportions.
Over 1.37 million viewers watched the match live according to EsportsCharts, shattering MSI viewership records dating back to the event’s inception in 2015. Only previous MSI semifinals and grand finals have topped 2023’s opening bracket match.
The match recorded the sixth most concurrent viewer count in MSI’s history, just shy of last year’s semifinal between T1 and G2 (1.42 million) and 2021’s DPlus KIA and MAD Lions semifinal (1.49 million).
Most impressively the tournament is posting record numbers while competing for viewership against rival esport CS:GO, with both MSI and the BLAST Paris Major Challenger Stage matches live at the same time. The BLAST Major has so far peaked at a touch over 600,000 viewers, with numbers identical to that of the IEM Rio Major in October 2022.
MSI 2022’s grand final between Korean squad T1 and Chinese giants Royal Never Give Up attracted over two million viewers—but that figure looks well within reach given such a jump in viewership for a match so early in 2023’s bracket stage.
This year’s MSI tournament has seen a format change: Previously, teams fought across round-robin group and rumble stages, with only four teams progressing to a single-elimination knockout bracket. 2023’s revamp sees two double-elimination brackets, with the main bracket consisting entirely of best-of-fives.
While the new format potentially means fewer matches for teams who are eliminated early, the raised stakes provide for a much more intense atmosphere, partially contributing to an extended rate of engagement.
Another factor for consideration is Riot Games’ decision to extend co-streaming rights to popular community streamers—the first time in the esports’ history—with big names LS, IWDominate, Caedrel, and Sneaky boosting viewership from their personal Twitch channels.
A major benefit is Riot’s MSI schedule: With matches starting at lunchtime locally in Europe, and in the evening’s prime time for Asian viewers, two of the three major audiences are catered to at some point during the best-of-five. American viewers are affected the most by this year’s schedule, with a full-length best-of-five ending at midday CT.
It hasn’t stopped some complaints from the community, with many working through the earlier match times, but with a favorable weekend schedule and the CS:GO Major taking a break day between stages, it’s very possible we’ll see a new MSI viewership record later in the bracket.