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Riots head of esports in Europe: ”We’re gonna take a hard look at the LCS format in the off season”

av Björn Ehrnberg
yeh
Photo: Twitter.

As all League of Legend fans know by now, the 1 of October marks the beginning of this years World Championships in the most popular esport in the world.
But Riots head of esports in Europe, Jason Yeh, is already looking forward to what Riot can do better in the future, especially in the LCS.
– We are going to take a hard look at that during the off season and try to figure out how we can optimize it all, he says to Aftonbladet Esport.

Only one week remain until Worlds is once again upon us. The best teams from around the globe will travel to Europe to fight for the elusive title of World Champions. When the LCS summer split came to a close in Stockholm the past August, Aftonbladet Esport had a chance to talk to Jason Yeh, head of esports in Europe about what is about to come and the fact that the biggest League of Legends tournament is being held in EU once again.
– Worlds is truly a cross office, year long effort for us. It’s exciting to have Worlds in Europe again, Worlds haven’t been here since the first season, and that was actually held at DreamHack. It will be amazing to bring Worlds to a lot of different locations and cultures across Europe.

”It is a trade we make”

Worlds is, as customary in recent years, divided up into several segments. The group stage will be played in Paris on two different occasions, the first one being held between the 1st-4th October. The group stage then takes a break for four days and will eventually be determined between the 8th and 12th of October.

The playoff will be held in London, Brussels and to top it off the grand final will be played in Berlin. In other words, Worlds will basically only be played in Western Europe with the more eastern parts being left out of the huge party.
– It goes back to the availability of the venues based on the schedule that we have. It is ideal for us to make as accessible as possible for anyone to see the games live, but it will be difficult for a lot of people to see the show live wherever we go to. If we pick Europe, it means that it will be hard for anybody living in South East Asia och South America to get there. It is a trade of we make, we try to find interesting cities and good venues where we have a rabid fanbase but we also invest a lot in creating a really good broadcast experience. We put our main focus on the broadcast, Jason Yeh explains.

In terms of growth, how do you see League as an esport going? Is it still growing or is it reaching some kind of peak level right now?
– One of the really unique opportunities that we have is that the overall player base that we have is still growing. And our goal from the very beginning of esports was to create a fun and entertaining experience for League-players, so there will always be an opportunity to find new ways to make esports relevant for our players so that their experience with LoL is not only solo queue or playing games with their friends, it extends beyond that to attend live events – going to viewing parties and doing all these other things.
– I think from that perspective we see that as we level up the broadcast and the quality of the leagues that is happening in each region – more and more people who play Leauge also make it a part of their life. Whether they watch ten to twelve hours a week or only the finals. There are still a lot of opportunities for us to encourage our players to find out what all of this esport stuff is all about.

”There’s a lot of challenges”

League of Legends is still the most popular esport and the excitement as Worlds rolls around will only see the Twitch numbers grow even more. With that being said, especially CS:GO is growing like never before and has a larger percentage of players that also watch the big events. Something that Jason Yeh hopes to also will happen within League of Legends.
– I’m a really hardcore sports fan and I played baseball, soccer, football and I became a very casual player in all those sports but I’m still to this day a very hardcore fan while watching professional games. The reality is that for different types of League-players there are different opportunities to make this a fun and enjoyable kind of complementary experience from playing the game.
–For example, we have invested a lot in the English, Chinese and Korean broadcast but one thing that will hopefully help us get even deeper engagement – especially here on the European market – is help the players feel more connected to the pros and the teams by creating better local broadcasting in non-english languages and support local leagues that could propel teams into the Challenger Series or the LCS. That’s how you really are going to make people care.

It will be hard to top last years Worlds final stadium wise, but how important is it to you to create the perception that you are in this huge arena for the finals?
– To be honest we want to focus on creating a great live experience and also be conducive in creating a good broadcast. There’s a lot of challenges in doing decent broadcast when you have an open roof football stadium. Yes, we could sell more tickets and get more people in but it also creates more problems with the broadcast. So I think that it is less about finding a bigger venue every year and more about finding host cities and venues that help us create a more memorable experience.

”Big push”

Looking beyond Worlds, what are some of the things you can tell us that you will try and look to improve for next years LCS?
– As I alluded to earlier, we will keep on supporting local language broadcasting of the league and helping level those up. So if you are, for example, watching a Swedish broadcast it doesn’t feel like it’s a much lower quality than the English language one, both from production value standpoint as well as with the caster and talent pool. We also want to create more interesting content throughout the week to help players feel more connected with the pros and teams in order to become fans, I believe that is one area that we can invest a lot in.
– An other area where we can improve a lot is to help local competitions. There are bunch of compelling competition happening on a regional level and we want to help with the connection between the top teams and players from those competition to make it to the Challenger Series and ultimately the LCS. For example, we see a huge influx in the Swedish fanbase as Sweden have more and more players in the LCS. Helping to close the loop in the LCS will be a big push for us next year.

Are you guys opening up for a change in the format in the LCS? More specifically, to introduce best-of-three games in the season?
– The format is one of the best ways that impact both the quality of the games being played and also the preparations for the teams to do well in future competitions. I think there are tradeoffs. You could argue for a two round robin in a Best Of 2 or a Best Of 3, and that would involve a lot of games – if you look at the LPL for example, you see a lot of weird plays because the players know that they will face each other a lot before the season is over. I think one of the drawbacks with doing a two round robin Best Of 1 is that you only play teams twice a split which forces the teams to be a lot more cautious and that doesn’t prepare them as well for games played in series. But I believe that the players should prepare for whatever format that is coming up and I’m confident that good teams like Fnatic or Origen will be successful regardless of what format they play in.
– Then there’s a question of how much content you create. How much is to much? Do the fans follow only one team or the whole league? So I think there’s a lot of different trade offs, but we are going to take a hard look at that during the off season and try to figure out how we can optimize it all.

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