2018 in review: Esports
In 2018 we focused on creating a tournament-heavy program and drawing sponsors to the CIS esports ecosystem. It's time to look back at what we achieved in these past 12 months and to share our plans for 2019.
Creating a financially stable esports ecosystem has been a priority task for Riot Games Moscow since the second half of 2017. At that time we announced our plans to split advertising revenue between Riot Games and esports organizations.
The Universities program, launched in November 2017 in collaboration with Red Bull, was the first major success within this new development framework. And in 2018 we presented a plethora of sponsorship projects and partnerships.
Business Menu. In summer we signed a long-term agreement with Business Menu (Russian: "Бизнес меню"), the manufacturer of instant noodles. This inspired the humorous series "Лапша на уши" (this expression means "Noodles on one's ears" and amounts to the English "pulling one's leg"). In this talk show the broadcasting crew and Continental League players tell tall tales about themselves for the camera. This helped ease the tense atmosphere of the LCL weekends.
OMEN by HP. In the Summer Split the gaming brand OMEN by HP provided the grand prize for the MVP (most valuable player) of the season. After each match during the Split, viewers had a chance to vote for the best player on the winning team. At the end of the season, OMEN by HP gave the MVP a powerful personal computer.
Дом.ru. The relaunch of the LCL Open Cup was supported by a telecommunications company, "Дом.ru". This provider of high-speed home internet and digital home TV became the rebranded CIS cup sponsor, offering in-game rewards to its subscribers and giving out unique Дом.ru "buffs" – with a set of a chest and a key – to the viewers on the Live.Portal.
Mastercard and Sberbank. In September, Mastercard became the first global sponsor of the League of Legends esports. We supported the initiative in this region. In collaboration with Mastecard and Sperbank we presented plastic cards with League of Legends designs.. By December 2018, there were thousands these new card holders!
In support of this partnership we also hosted a Championship Battle (Russian: "Чемпионский баттл"), a 1x1 tournament for casters and streamers picked by the Russian-speaking portion of the League of Legends community. The grand prizes were a real Hextech Chest with exclusive merchandise and a trip to the spectator's area of the World Finals in South Korea.
We can certainly call this past year successful, however, we've just begun journey to a stable esports ecosystem. Achieving our main goal, which is financial independence of CIS esports, will take a lot of hard work.
In 2019 we will be actively seeking and drawing new partners to make the ecosystem stronger and our content even better and more interesting. Our sponsors' help allows us to release more interesting contest for the viewers, establish new leagues and balance the financing of esports ecosystem while supporting Riot Games and the Continental League organizations.
The quality of spectators' experience
The quality of streams and online activities for esports fans is still the priority in our content strategy. In this past years we tried to make LCL more attractive for the spectators.
Live.Portal continued evolving. We experimented with buffs, added Yandex TV Onlineto the list of platforms and integrated new game events into Live.Portal. Thus, we added one more project to the "Forecast Contest" and the "Fan Battle". It's called "A Twist of Fate Tavern". The spectators earned Sliver Serpents by completing various activities on the RU server. They then had to make a difficult choice: take Graves' safe exchange offer or make a risky bet with Twisted Fate for a chance to multiply their earnings. On the eve of the LCL grand finale we introduced another new feature - "The Esports Legend". Spectators were encouraged to choose a "protegee" and turn them into an Esports Legends in this event. They could choose Yury "FlashInTheNight" Shilenkov, Dmitry "Zak Antihype" Kulkin, Alexey "Genes1s" Romanov or Michael "Olsior" Zverev. Each had their unique play style. A veteran destroyer of objects, FlashInTheNight aka The Tsar became the winner, with 54 thousand votes.
We also took some liberties with the promos:
- In the anticipation of the Spring Split Finals we released musical battles of several champions, in different genres: Ivern VS Maokai, Jhin VS Miss Fortune and Urgot VS Rakan.
- We introduced an experimental show Armchair Quarterbacks (Russian: "Диванная аналитика") with guest stars.
- We employed pauses between matches to showcase new formats, which provided a refreshing look on the world of LCL.
Thanks to these and other activities the LCL showed growth by all quality indicators, including the total hours of viewing per season, the number of unique viewers and the peaking index in the regular season and during the Finals. GGWP!
P. S. These year's achievements were marred by the return of the LCL's sworn enemy, the pause. We were able to defeat it during this season, but the war is still raging. We prepared this study four our anti-pause squad...
CIS performance and the alignment of forces in the region
In 2018, two vacated spots in the LCL were taken by young and ambitious teams. Dragon Army caught the viewers' attention with their determination to win when they almost defeated Gambit this summer. Elements Pro Gaming was incredibly charismatic; just remember how we lifted dogs into the air for them!
Veterans of Gambit Esports became champions of both Splits, but the competition was fierce. In spring, the LCL saw many new players while veterans found their second breath. Gadget, Kinzu, EKKA, Wendelbo, Riddem, Phlaty, AHaHaCIK… This list could go on and on. The Summer Split turned out to be one of the most unpredicted in LCL history. A week before the Finals, six teams were contesting a spot in the Knockout, and five of them had a good chance of winning.
What concerns international tournaments, this year the CIS was represented by Gambit. The team performed successfully in most tournaments. The fans picked Kira and Diamondprox as the two players who participated in the All-Stars event in Las Vegas.
Rift Rivals gave the CIS region some much-needed points in the overall ranking. Gambit Esports, ROX and Team Just fought shoulder to shoulder and put a lot of pressure on their TCL and VCS rivals. By taking second place, we redeemed ourselves for our last year's performance.
CIS teams conquered the Group Stage in the two main tournaments of the year, however, both times the journey ended at the Knockout Stage. And while Flash Wolves easily won their playoff match in the MSI, Cloud9 had to fight their way through for five hours before they could breach Gambit's defenses at the Worlds.
2018 also saw some new records. Professional players surprised us with an unprecedented variety of champions. The World Finals attracted almost 100 million viewers. K/DA and RISE! conquered the charts all over the world. For the CIS region, 2018 became a development milestone. Big brands that share Riot Games values joined our ecosystem. Main tournaments attracted more viewers, the matches and their live broadcasting became more interesting and varied.
Thank you for making 2018 the most successful esports year in the history of League of Legends! See you next year!