Sep 22 2016 - 6:44 pm

Riot Games to expand in-game merchandising for teams, add Worlds skin sale revenue to prize pool

The biggest league in esports is finally moving forward on ways to create revenue for its teams and players
Samuel Lingle
Dot Esports

The biggest league in esports is finally moving forward on ways to create revenue for its teams and players.

Riot Games is introducing new revenue streams in its League of Legends esports leagues through new ad sales, better collaboration with teams on merchandising, and selling in-game content. The new system kicks off at next month’s World Championship, with 25 percent of sales from Championship skins now contributing to the event's prize pool, which is currently set at $2.13 million.

The changes could go a long way towards sustaining a competitive ecosystem, that’s survived increasingly on outside investment. The League Championship Series (LCS), instituted by developer Riot Games in 2012, quickly grew into the largest and most professional league in esports. But despite its success, Riot has failed to create revenue streams from the product. While that’s fine for the developer, who cashes in on the league’s massive viewership and popularity through sales of in-game items, that’s left the teams, who handle much of the heavy lifting of creating a competitive product, struggling to survive, creating a tenuous situation for the long term.

Based off controversial statements made by Riot Games founder Marc Merrill one month ago, Riot seemed ignorant of the problem, but those statements served as a clarion call to rally the community together, likely pushing Riot to quickly create the plan they revealed today.

Worlds won’t be the only event with increased revenue sharing. Challenger skins will now contribute to the prize pool of the Mid-Season Invitational. Team Championship skins, which are created based off the signature champions of the World Championship winners, will now see 25 percent of sales go directly to both the player and their team. Plus, Riot plans to expand its selection of team-branded merchandise in-game.

The model is similar to that of other esports, like Smite and Dota 2Smite offers teams multiple ways to generate revenue through in-game sales, and Dota 2 added nearly $20 million to the prize pool for The International 2016 through in-game item sales using the same 25 percent clip Riot is introducing.

The move is a shift from Riot's past stance on crowdfunding. A Riot representative allegedly likened Valve's Dota 2 crowdfunding to "begging" in an interview with Polygon in 2014, and later that year Dustin Beck, Riot's esports czar, implied that crowdfunding wouldn't work long-term in a Dot Esports interview.

"As for what we’re doing, we’re trying to create a sustainable ecosystem similar to any other sport, where the monetization and revenue is really fueled by sponsors and partners and advertisers and broadcast rights and all that stuff," he said. "We think that’s a great model that we want to aspire towards."

Riot has seemingly had to shift its stance on the issue, given the development of the scene over the past two years.

It is, in fact, taking measures to ensure that in-game merchandising will at least produce fair and sustained results for its current teams. Riot will enforce what it calls a "minimum revenue," essentially a form of revenue sharing which will ensure that a team that doesn't reach certain revenue standards will receive enough money to operate. In 2017, the EU LCS will feature a "minimum revenue amount" of 100,000 euros per team for the full season, with a mandate that 50 percent of that money goes to players on top of their existing salary.

Overall, the in-game merchandising alone should go a long way to creating more revenue around League of Legends esports, even if sponsorship deals for media created around the league may eventually be the biggest driver, like in professional sports. For example, if 25 percent of revenue from last year’s Championship skin contributed to the 2015 prize pool, it would have more than doubled the pool, meaning more than $2.1 million more added into the esports ecosystem. 

Jan 21 2017 - 10:55 pm

Contractz shines as Cloud9 topples TSM

Cloud9’s rookie jungler made a big splash in his LCS debut
Xing Li
Dot Esports
Photo via Riot Games

Cloud9’s Juan "Contractz" Arturo Garcia didn't just make an impression in his LCS debut. He blew away all expectations, and showed himself to be a force to be reckoned with.

Contractz was the last cut from the Players to Watch list we wrote before the League Championship season. We weren’t sure how much priority Cloud9 would give him, especially with so much talent elsewhere on the roster. Still, we felt uneasy--someone not on the list was almost guaranteed to break out.

We just didn’t know that it would happen in the very first series.

In a rematch of last summer’s LCS Finals, Cloud9 and TSM clashed on the rift. And despite the star power that this matchup brings, much of the focus was on Contractz. He was a major focus for C9, almost a win condition in themselves.

Let’s see how he did it.

Jungle Priority

Due to the changes Riot made to the jungle in the offseason, priority has risen for junglers. More experience and more ganks means a good jungler can more easily carry a game. Cloud9’s coach, Bok “Reapred” Han-gyu talks about priority all the time.

Priority is a League term that indicates which lane has a strong matchups and should be a focus for jungle ganks. The player or lane with priority gets earlier picks and more attention from the rest of the team.

In a bit of a role reversal, C9 picked jungle to have priority in game one. That meant C9 players actively played around Contractz’ Kha’zix and made plays to get him ahead. In one telling instance, AD carry Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi burned his Ashe ult so that Contractz could invade and secure red buff.

Contractz rewarded that allocation by killing TSM ADC Jason “WildTurtle” Tran for First Blood. Cloud9 picked a risky comp that required Contractz and mid laner Nicolaj Jensen (playing Fizz) to snowball. Aided by some questionable team play from TSM and baffling itemization from WildTurtle, they accomplished that.

How would TSM react in game two?

A Lee Sin God

Cloud9 continued to give Contractz priority by first-picking Lee Sin for him (only one jungler, Rengar, was banned). This time, he lived in TSM’s red side jungle, playing around pressure from Jensen and top laner Jung “Impact” Eon-yeong.

A well-executed gank gave C9 First Blood again, this time on Soren “Bjergsen” Bjerg. C9’s duo lane kept their own red-side safe, allowing Contractz to clear and run to the top lane to kill Kevin “Hauntzer” Yarnell.

For much of the series, Cloud9 exhibited superior team play and coordination, and Contractz was at the center of big plays. He is an aggressive, carry-oriented player and C9 enabled that aggression extremely well. Even when TSM jungler Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen and the rest of the team was there, it was often C9 making the right moves, faster. Following a decent TSM dive in the bot lane, Contractz responded with kill after kill.

It’s still very early in the season, but this team has come together very fast. Their communication was superb as was the shot calling. TSM had poor performances from Turtle and Svenskeren, but this victory was still more about C9's macro-oriented team play, rather than individual performances. They will have chances to come back, just like C9 will have to keep their play high by continuing to aid their jungler.

Contractz just dominated what was the best team in NA. Keep this performance up, and he’ll find himself on another one of our lists: the end of split awards.

Jan 21 2017 - 10:20 pm

G2 Esports and H2k-Gaming on top after EU LCS opening weekend

Last year's top teams haven't missed a beat.
Callum Leslie
Weekend Editor, Dot Esports.
Photo via Riot Games

G2 Esports and H2k-Gaming picked up exactly where they left off as the 2017 European LCS season got underway.

Both G2 and H2k, who had the most championship points in Europe in 2016, won both of their first two matches of the 2017 Spring Split as they look to win out in their respective groups.

In the biggest match of the weekend on paper, G2 beat Fnatic 2-1 in a thrilling series to the delight of the crowd in the LCS studio. The first game was a cagey affair, with G2 securing all of the objectives and getting a relatively comfortable win, but the second game was far closer.

The game was level for most of the first thirty minutes, until Fnatic managed to take Baron. From there the team's advantage slowly developed despite G2's best efforts. Fnatic broke down G2's defences and left the Nexus exposed, before this daring flash play let Fnatic in the backdoor to win the game.

Fired up by the audacious play, G2 Esports fired back in game three. Though Fnatic were able to secure more kills than G2, 20-14, G2 once again took almost all of the objectives. They wore down Fnatic with repeated attacks on the Nexus until Fnatic could no longer withstand the pressure.

G2 also defeated Roccat 2-0, finishing the week top of Group A.

H2k-Gaming went just one better than G2 in Group B—not only did they win both of their initial matches, they also did without dropping a game. The 2016 World Championship semifinalists defeated Origen in the first game of the season, before knocking off fellow World Championship competitors Splyce.

Misfits and Unicorns of Love were the only other victorious sides on the opening weekend, over Giants Gaming and Vitality respectively.