The North American LCS and its participants are currently under heated discussions regarding the future of the region. The LCS Players Association has decided to issue a challenge to Riot Games regarding its treatment of the region’s competitive future to which the company has issued a response. The response includes lots of promises and even a passive-aggressive threat from the company that concerns whether or not the LCS will be participating in the 2023 World Championship.
The LCS Players Association Walk Out!
The LCS Players Association is an organization created by the players of the LCS for the players of the LCS. It is headed by prominent players including Darshan (President), Bjergsen (Vice-President), Doublelift (Vice-President), and Goldenglue (Vice-President). They are recognized by Riot Games and the LCS but they aren’t an official part of the company so the power they hold over executive decisions isn’t absolute.
Recently, the LCS Players Association decided to challenge Riot Games after the company decided to approve a move to remove the NA Challenger’s League which has caused the sudden loss of many upcoming player’s competitive stage. A number of LCS players currently participating in the tournament have decided to walk out in solidarity with the NACL players, leaving the region unable to begin their Summer Split due to teams not having complete rosters.
The LCS PA gave Riot Games a set of “demands” for the Challenger’s League with a large part of the community commenting on how implausible some of the requests are. Regardless, Riot Games released a statement that confirms they read the demands and met some of them halfway. However, the statement also included a passive-aggressive threat that warned the organizations that if the walkout were to extend, the NA LCS would not be allowed to attend the 2023 World Championships.
The walkout achieved minimal results but the LCS PA caught the attention of Riot Games and allowed them to further discuss the issue. It proves the point that Riot Games is willing to communicate with its league but is firm in its decision to retain the final say. The LCS is a region that has not produced favorable results in the League of Legends esports scene and has not been drawing in more viewers as compared to other regions.
Does Riot Games Care About the LCS?
There have been talks that Riot Games has been looking for an excuse to scrap the LCS as a competitive region because they simply don’t care for its existence. Despite League of Legends being a huge game in North America, the LCS as an esports region hasn’t been drawing in as big of a market as other regions. League of Legends esports in North America has been on the decline and Riot Games might see that as an issue.
Regardless of how it looks, it is impossible that Riot Games doesn’t care about the LCS and is looking for an excuse to scrap the region as a whole. The NA LCS might not market a lot in its own region but it is basically a symbol for the larger community outside of Europe and North America. The region is also home to the largest League of Legends content creators in the world that Riot Games can’t chase away if they plan on ensuring the survival of the game.
The Future of Tier 2 Tournaments in League of Legends
South Korea, China, and Europe all have tier 2-3 tournaments in their regions which draw relatively large viewerships and have dedicated fanbases that promote the game. Unfortunately, the LCS is the only region where the Tier 2 tournaments are almost irrelevant with extremely small viewership. The promotion is great for the NACL but when it comes to the actual number of people who care about NA’s tier 2 tournament, it’s simply not producing the results it needs to keep up.
It is highly doubtful that Riot Games removes tier 2 tournaments as a whole when 3 of the 4 major regions are profiting from the existence of their academy leagues. As for North America, Riot Games already stated that they do want Tier 2 tournaments to exist for the region and have already invested a relatively decent amount of money to incentivize teams to compete for the 2023 Summer Season.
The LCS Organizations
The LCS Organizations were the first to back out of the NA Challenger’s League when Riot Games announced that franchised teams no longer had to field an academy roster. With the exception of Team Liquid, FlyQuest, and Evil Geniuses, the major teams have already withdrawn interest in competing in Tier 2 tournaments. This means that the organizations themselves are not interested in developing new talent.
Esports organizations are a business first. Investing in potential talent is something that is on the lower spectrum of most organizations’ priority list because they’d rather spend a large sum of money buying out prominent players that have large brands because they are extremely profitable to add to their roster. Of course, winning the LCS playoffs will add to an organization’s branding but they would rather go for the option with the least risk.
The LCS Players Association was established to retain the competitiveness of the region outside the influence of both Riot Games and the LCS Organizations. This means that even though a member is part of an LCS team, they have the LCS Players Association to fight for their concerns, issues, and requests without the threat of their employers terminating their contracts. After all, non-brand players are disposable pieces for the teams that own them.
The trend of LCS organizations prioritizing profits over the interest of their players will not change, no matter what kind of statement they release and what their upper management personalities say on camera. It is unfortunate that the competitive scene is plagued with this type of problem but it is an unavoidable truth in both physical sports and esports. We can only hope that it doesn’t come to a point where international competitions are affected by this.