The Japanese League of Legends esports scene is looking really bad as several players have decided to resign from the league. This massive resignation of players is due to the fact that the LJL has lost its status as an independent competitive region as the LJL merges with the Pacific Championship Series which includes Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, Southeast Asia, and Oceania. Despite a decent performance in recent years, Riot Games has demoted the league.
The LJL Merges with the PCS
The LJL merges with the PCS ecosystem. This means that the LJL will still have its own domestic League where Japanese teams will compete against Japanese teams. However, Japan will lost its playoff series altogether. This means that the top 3 teams from the LJL will compete in the PCS playoffs and compete against the top 6 teams from the PCS and the top 2 teams from the LCO in a 11-team playoff series for a chance to get 1 of 2 slots to compete in MSI and Worlds.
Watch the video above to learn more about how the region plans to implement this playoff system. It essentially allows each region to keep their domestic leagues relevant while introducing a format that allows for regional growth since the best representatives from one region will compete against more experience teams from the PCS. The PCS-LJL merge is introduced as a good thing for the East Asian League of Legends scene as a whole.
The drawback of having such a format is that the LJL loses its guaranteed spot at international tournaments. In the previous structure, the LJL will always compete at the Mid-Season Invitational and World Championships since they are an independent minor region. However, they’ll have to compete against two other regions this year to even have a chance to compete at an international tournament.
The PCS benefits greatly from this arrangement because they are the strongest region in the ecosystem. Having the 5 teams from the LJL and LCO combined, their best representatives essentially have an easier time getting to the final stages of the tournament. On the other hand, the LCO also benefits from this arrangement because they can now compete against a region that is closer to their level than hopelessly trying to beat the PCS teams.
Why are the LJL Players Resigning?
The LJL players are starting to resign before the official announcement of the PCS-LJL merge because they already heard of the plans beforehand. The dying League of Legends community in Japan means that less players are becoming interested in the esports, making it difficult for organizations to make money from selling merchandise and other services to fans due to the dwindling interest in the industry.
Organizations losing money translate to lower salaries for professional League of Legends esports competitors. With the LJL losing its independent spot in the international tournament scene, it’s difficult for organizations to build up a fanbase outside of Japan. Teams like DetonatioN FocusMe were massively successful because they built up an international fanbase due to iconic players like Evi and Yutapon being massive icons.
The threat of salaries falling below the livable amount in Japan means that professional players can’t justify continuing their careers in the esports industry. Just like all human beings on the planet, they need to be able to secure a source of food and shelter if they need to survive. Even though some younger, upcoming rookies might jump on the opportunity to take the open slots in the league, the veterans know that the League of Legends era in the region has ended.
Another reason that LJL players might be resigning is because there might be better opportunities overseas. PCS teams are now allowed to have Japanese players on their teams without them taking an import slot. It is similar to the updated import rule. Meanwhile, the LJL must still have at least 3 Japanese residents on their teams. Since the PCS includes teams from countries like Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines, and more from SEA, they might be incentivized to compete there.
Is the Japanese League of Legends Scene Dying?
Hardcore PvP games have never been popular in Japan since they prefer playing co-op games. League of Legends has never really gained a lot of players in Japan. However, there was still an impressive number that Riot Games decided to give them their own competitive region to oversee. Unfortunately, not a lot of impressive domestic talent arose which is why the region heavily relied on Korean talent to act as primary carries to their team.
The fanbase of League of Legends esports is quite small as compared to other regions which is why they rely on the larger international community for a relevant portion of their revenue. The Japanese fans interact regularly with the community. The LJL, as a region, being demoted and being forced to merge with the PCS won’t affect the player count of League of Legends in the country that much so it’s safe to say that League of Legends isn’t dying in Japan.
Will we See a Japanese Team Compete Internationally?
Among the teams in the PCS ecosystem, the teams from Taiwan and Hong Kong are leagues above their competitors in SEA, Oceania, and Japan. They will most likely dominate the competition for the next few seasons unless Japan and Oceania suddenly find their winning formula. We are getting a new 2024 update which will drastically change the meta so there is still a chance for these regions to rise up competitively.
The Japanese teams have performed well in recent years with DetonatioN FocusMe even beating out Cloud9 in 2021 to get to the Group Stage at Worlds. This region should not be underestimated since they can always find a way to evolve their gameplay. Luckily, we can see some Japanese players like Evi performing well in major regions like the LCK so we’ll most likely see more of them being signed to more regions.