Why has LCS Viewership Suffered?
For the past few years, the League Championship Series (LCS) has been a large component to the growth of Twitch. However, major concerns over the viewership for the LCS regions has been a major topic among the community. Both the European and North American LCS have changed the format of the round robin to a best-of-two and best-of-three respectively; thus increasing the amount of weekly content.
League of Legends is just over six and a half years old, meaning that as much as Riot can deviate from the game that was released in 2009, we pretty much have learned everything there is to learn from the game. Tempo, rotations, gold distribution, wave control, jungle pathing and coordinating pressure were all relatively new concepts to competitive play back when I first started playing and it is possible to assume that we have hit the limit for strategic depth for this game.
I assume that many people, like myself, watch competitive League because we want to learn more about what champions or strategies are strong. Compared to other games, these lessons that we obtain by watching competitive play are relatively easy to apply to our own play. For example, learning Taliyah might require you to watch a guide on YouTube and play a few games but performing Guile loops is difficult for the vast majority of Street Fighter’s audience. Once everything has been learned, it is difficult to justify why you should continue to watch.
Time is valuable and should be respected
Frankly, there has never been a better time to play games than right now. There are games for all types of people, from deep multiplayer experiences such as Overwatch and Dota to enthralling single player experiences such as Uncharted 4 and DOOM. There are many frustrations with League, including Dynamic Queue, and I can only assume a proportion of those who have complaints about the game simply say, “This game is not fun, so I’m not going to play it.” It is a very simple thought process but it is hard to give up something that people invested hours into.
This is probably not the root cause of the decay in viewership numbers, as there are definitely people who watch competitive League without playing every day. But the time investment required to remain updated with the western region has increased. Again, a proportion of the audience will ask, “is this worth the time investment?” and recently for me the answer has been no.
Other esport titles have seen remarkable growth since the last year with Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and Dota 2 seeing a 30% increase in viewership over last year compared to LoL’s 8.1%. And with EVO and The International coming up, as well as upcoming sport tournaments such as the Olympics and the EURO 2016, which ends today, it is hard to predict that LCS’s momentum will change. It is not that these competitions are in direct competition with each other, but the time investment to watch a major region for competitive League is much greater than other esports and traditional sports; especially when a patch is released every two weeks.
This probably is not the end of League, but we could be witnessing a beginning of a plateau in popularity for LoL. As many game companies will know, it is very difficult to change the momentum of a game in the esports space but there are solutions to these problems. A show that presents all the highlights of the day with brief analysis in between in one tight show (Match of the Day-esque for those in the UK) could be a possible solution that could reduce the time investment for the audience.