For years, aggressive gaming has achieved its finest to imitate skilled sports activities, whether or not it’s gamers carrying Nike jerseys, big-name celeb buyers, or formidable plans for home-and-away video games. However Chris Greeley, commissioner of the League of Legends Championship Sequence — the sport’s high skilled league in North America — believes that esports has moved past mimicking present sports activities.
“We had this concept at first that, as a result of esports is a sport, and we wished to be taken severely, we should always seem like a sport,” he tells The Verge. “The LCS seemed just like the NBA on TNT. It was nice for validation and for buyers and sponsors to look and say ‘Hey, this seems similar to a sport, subsequently that is a simple translation.’ However we’ve outlived that.”
So beginning in 2021, the league is making some massive adjustments, each by way of the way it seems and the way it’s structured. “We really feel like we’re lastly free to be ourselves,” Greeley says.
The obvious change is visible. The league has a brand new brand — it’s a crystal made from the letters LCS — and a refreshed graphic design for broadcasts. Whereas the earlier brand was a protect that wouldn’t have seemed misplaced in faculty soccer, the brand new one clearly represents a online game. It follows comparable redesigns for the opposite high League competitions all over the world, together with Europe, China, and Korea.
(Greeley says the emblem has acquired a combined response from followers thus far — which was anticipated. “Folks hate change. We’ve seen it from just about each esports rebrand,” he says, including “You don’t need [a logo that] seems prefer it got here off of a can of soup. It must be resonant.”)
The concept behind the refresh, he says, is to present the LCS its personal distinct voice in an more and more crowded discipline. “It’s not nearly a brand new colour or a brand new brand, nevertheless it actually is about how we’re going to observe with our broadcast and our content material,” he says. “You’re not going to tune on this week and see a completed product. We’ll be iterating over the subsequent 12 months or two, however I feel it is a actually nice begin.”
To go together with this, the LCS can be introducing some major format changes, with a much bigger give attention to tournaments, together with one to kick off the 12 months that begins on January 15th. Beforehand, the competitors intently resembled one thing just like the NFL, with a slate of standard season matches culminating within the playoffs; one of the best groups then moved on to worldwide competitions. The objective is to discover a stability between the fun of knockout tournaments and the familiarity of standard season play. “Tournaments are thrilling,” Greeley explains. “The issue is, if all the things is a match, if all the things is supposed to really feel thrilling, then nothing feels thrilling.”
Regardless of issues attributable to the pandemic, the LCS — together with many different esports leagues — skilled tremendous growth by way of viewership final 12 months. However the league struggled on a aggressive degree. On the annual League of Legends World Championship, North American groups had been far behind the competitors and didn’t pose a lot of a menace to the large golf equipment from Europe, China, and Korea. A lot of the blame was placed on the area’s developmental scene. As an alternative of encouraging up-and-coming native gamers, many LCS groups relied on growing old or imported stars.
The league is hoping to vary that with a revamped amateur system, with the objective of opening issues up, in order that the developmental squads for every LCS group — often known as academy groups — are capable of play in numerous tournaments in opposition to different beginner and faculty groups. This can culminate in an end-of-year match known as LCS Proving Grounds.
In line with Greeley, these adjustments had been within the works previous to Worlds — however the suggestions was nonetheless welcome. “The criticism across the want for NA to make adjustments to develop gamers, that really was satisfying to listen to, as a result of I knew this was coming,” he says of the beginner adjustments. “We hadn’t introduced it, it was almost closing at that time, however we had been simply determining how we had been going to roll it out. While you’re growing an answer, after which everybody stands up and says ‘We’d like an answer,’ and it’s achieved and able to present, that’s truly a reasonably good feeling.”
2021 will even see the league proceed to function remotely. Usually, LCS matches happen in a Los Angeles studio with followers in attendance. That clearly hasn’t been doable through the pandemic, however Greeley says that this might slowly change all year long. Step one is to get the printed group within the constructing, and the hope is that by the point playoffs come round, gamers will be current as effectively. Viewers, in the meantime, will possible have to stay to watching on Twitch and YouTube.
“We’re not dashing getting followers again into the world,” Greeley says.