Another day, another PR nightmare for Riot Games.
This year hasn’t been kind to the League of Legends developers, starting with the outright failure of the new Clash game mode, and then the unprecedented lambasting from players and pros over the design team’s changes to the game this season. More recently, Kotaku ran an exposé detailing rampant sexism at the company, an issue that easily dwarfs the others in seriousness and potential for long-term harm. Following the Kotaku story, even more stories and recollections from former employees have been brought to light to confirm the report, too. And apparently—when it rains, it pours.
That’s right, another issue has surfaced, and this one started as a simple, seemingly casual comment dropped by EU LCS on-air personality Andrew “Vedius” Day on his Twitch stream earlier this week.
When asked if he would be at Worlds this year, he responded with, “But Worlds is done from [Los Angeles], not from Korea. Like, the broadcast will be done from LA, so we wouldn’t go to Korea, we’d just do the whole thing from LA.”
This was the first anyone outside of Riot had heard of this news, and it blew up faster than anyone could say, “Rito pls.” Within hours, it was all over Twitter and the game’s subreddit, with many in the League community talking about it. Of course, Vedius went onto say that the play-in stage was usually broadcast from LA, so it shouldn’t be that different, but that only served to confuse everyone further.
When Vedius said “the whole thing,” it sounded like the entirety of the English Worlds broadcast would be done remotely, but then when he mentioned play-ins, it seemed almost like he was just referring to the play-in stage for this year, too. Well, a Riot staffer hopped into a Reddit post on the subject to clarify, and it turns out that it’s actually a little bit of both.
“This is only partly accurate,” they said. “The English language casting team will be in LA from play-ins through semifinals, and will then be onsite for the Worlds finals, with the exception of [Ovilee May] and [Eefje “sjokz” Depoortere] who will rotate onsite for the entire run for interviews.”
So, it turns out, the English crew won’t be onsite until finals, which means they’ll be in LA for most of Worlds. As you can imagine, the community has some opinions, including former LCK caster Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles (now a part of Blizzard’s OWL broadcast team), famous League personality Travis Gafford, Dota 2 commentator Owen Davies, and many, many more.
Our opinion? Yeah, it’s bad, but we’re not entirely convinced that it’s that devastating.
When Vedius mentioned that it was really expensive to send the entire team to Korea, the automatic gut reaction from the community was that Riot was making budget cuts, and therefore couldn’t send people to Korea. You can see it in tweets, on Reddit, , by pretty much anyone talking about the situation. Oddly, though, no one actually mentioned budget cuts, and it turns out that’s not really what’s happening.
Riot’s global head of esports Derrick “FearGorm” Asiedu braved the trenches of Reddit to explain what was actually going after the original posts made the rounds. In a very lengthy statement, he essentially said that no, Riot isn’t actually cutting the budget for Worlds this year. Riot might cut the budget in the future, but that’s not what’s happening yet.
Instead, the company is opting to lower the cost in certain areas, like not sending a certain production team overseas to broadcast on-site, to improve quality elsewhere. He revealed that this year’s Worlds should cost more than any other Worlds Riot has done aside from last year’s, which he says was only more expensive because of the “scale of China,” and we assume he just means that China is massive and has an enormous League player-base.
So what’s this mean? Riot isn’t sending the English production team to Worlds until finals to save on certain costs, but it isn’t actually cutting costs to make Worlds cheaper, because the event will still cost a ton even by Riot’s standards. This means that Riot will be amping up quality, using new features, and whatever else, to make up for not sending the broadcast team over earlier. In other words, we’re cautiously optimistic, because there’s a chance Worlds will be even more impressive this year despite the on-air team not being there until finals.
That being said, there are still realistic downsides to not including the English broadcast in Korea until that late in the tournament. We’ll miss out on hearing crowd chants, for starters, and the commentators describing the atmosphere of the event. The crowd and atmosphere are part of what makes Worlds what it is, and they remind the viewer the weight of the event, and without both until finals, there’s a certain epic factor missing from the equation. Not only that, but there’s always the chance that the broadcast team in Los Angeles will be on a slight delay. Putting all that aside, this keeps certain casters and color commentators from experiencing the full event or interacting in-person as much with fans, which is just unfortunate.
Last year, Riot brought in a giant, CGI dragon to the finals. If it really plans to exceed the quality and hype of that event by cutting costs elsewhere, it has some massive shoes to fill. There’s certainly a chance that the production team pulls it off, but if they don’t? Let’s just say that another PR nightmare wouldn’t be ideal after the 2018 Riot’s had so far.