Rigorous changes are coming to the LEC in 2023. As announced by Riot earlier, the competition will overhaul its format, splitting each season into three splits and a grand final at the end. Furthermore, a big chunk of the LEC is played in a best-of-three format, which many fans had been requesting for years.
After the official announcement, Riot executives spoke to the press to answer questions about the changes coming to the region. David Higdon, Global Head of Communication for Riot Esports, hosted the press conference. League of Legends EMEA Director Maximilian Schmidt and Head of Esports EMEA Alberto Guerrero answered the questions.
Note: Given the length of the press conference, it has been split into two parts. This first part contains all the questions and answers about the LEC. For the questions and answers about the future of ERLs, Turkey, the CIS region, and the MENA region, click here.
The LEC format
Back in 2018, the decision was made to cancel the best-of-three format. Why bring it back? Does it have anything to do with being more competitive with the LCK and LPL?
Schmidt: What we’ve seen over the last couple of years is that the [group of] people asking for best-of-threes and wanting to see them reintroduced has gotten larger and larger. What was a minority, and a vocal minority at that, a few years back, has grown over time. These voices have changed the fan base and how they perceive the sport and the league. We want to ensure that we cater to these fans and that we deliver the best possible experience. We feel like the way that we are integrating the best-of-threes, we get the best of both worlds. That will obviously remain to be seen, but we’re incredibly excited to have best-of-threes back in 2023.
“the way that we are integrating the best-of-threes, we get the best of both worlds.”Maximilian Schmidt
How did the [LEC] teams react to the changes?
Schmidt: They have been an incredible partner along the way. The format itself, we’ve been working on [that] since the beginning of the year. They have been a partner for us in regard to developing what exactly works on a competition side, to ensure that it accounts for everything they’re doing, as well as obviously factoring in the unique mix of competition and entertainment that the LEC aims to provide. As I mentioned previously, I want to really give a shoutout to the players of the player council, who have also been instrumental in ensuring that we deliver the best possible end result. The entirety of the LEC teams, as well as the team of Riot behind the scenes, are incredibly excited for this change. We’re all very much looking forward to the start of the 2023 season.
Expectations for the LEC product
Considering a single split could have as many as 117 games, what are your expectations on the LEC viewership fluctuations?
Schmidt: As I’ve mentioned, the heart of the decisions has been to ensure that we deliver the best possible product for our fans, that it gets them excited to tune in. We really wanted to ensure that, for every single part of the year, they have a reason why they want to watch the LEC in the weekend. In this particular instance, the honest expectations are that, for the entirety of the content that is being consumed, our hours watched hopefully go up as we go into 2023. If we do a fantastic job, despite us adding more days, we might even see an increase in our average audience overall.
Considering that there will be just one grand final, which is one road show, is that going to be the only road show of the year?
Schmidt: For 2023, the expectation should be that we have the one roadshow at the end to be a capstone event. We put all our energy and effort into making that the best it can be. For the future, we’re going to explore additional avenues.
During the presentation, you mentioned that the same number of ERL players have gone to the LEC in the past years as before franchising. But it’s obviously not about quantity, it’s about quality, and we’ve still seen what I would call “budget options” that have made the LEC weaker overall in the past years. How do you foresee these changes impacting that, with teams possibly changing lineups more often now that there are three splits?
Schmidt: Honestly, if anything, that’s a positive I think. It gives more opportunities for teams to go back to the drawing board and reassess. If after a single Round Robin you did not make the top eight, you will have a couple of weeks of a break which you can use to do a bootcamp, to reassess, to potentially move players between your secondary team and your main team, to see if you can find a new recipe for success. Overall, we expect that to make the competition a lot better and stronger. That is also what has been echoed by our LEC teams, as it ensures that they have the ability to reset and then potentially hit the home run in the second iteration or the third iteration.
What about the transfer windows and contract duration? Aren’t you afraid of creating some chaos between the three LEC split-format and the two ERL splits, as we can see in the LFL?
Schmidt: I think there is a misunderstanding with regard to how the overall free agency periods work. Free agency happens one time, at the end of the year. But there are transfer windows open throughout the entirety of the splits anyway. As of now, There is an opportunity for teams to make changes. The Schalke miracle run comes to mind, where they made changes in the middle of the split and then were able to shift. These changes obviously come with significant risks as of now. Teams are in the middle of the competition and they have to make a change within the week and then participate right after. With this change, we actually provide windows for the teams that did not do as well to be more deliberate about these things. We’re thinking about potential tryouts, potential opportunities to bootcamp as a team together as well. That hopefully ensures that we set them up for a better pathway to success and that it’s not as volatile as a potential change would now be for a team that’s not performing.
“The MSI representative is going to be the Spring Split champion.”Maximilian Schmidt
How will the LEC determine its MSI representative with two splits before the tournament?
Schmidt: The MSI representative is going to be the Spring Split champion.
With TCL and LCL “degraded” to an ERL, what happens to their Worlds spots? Do you know how many Worlds spots will be given to the LEC next year?
Schmidt: First and foremost, I think it’s not fair and not the perception at all on our end to “degrade” the TCL or the LCL. As said, the LCL will remain suspended for the time being. The TCL, we really believe [we’re] putting on a path of success which can follow the likes of the SuperLiga in the last couple of years or, more recently, the LFL. Secondarily, when it comes to the Worlds slots, that is something that will be communicated at a later point in time. I believe Naz [Aletaha] and John [Needham] have already communicated at the Worlds press conference that there will be changes to how Worlds will look next year. Obviously, as part of that, seeding will also be revealed.
With the LCL and TCL losing their Worlds slots, should we expect four slots for the EMEA region at Worlds this year?
Schmidt: I’ll talk to Naz [Aletaha]. [Laughs] I think, if we win MSI, we probably have a solid case to be made. But it will remain to be seen.
The ERLs have costreams, but the LEC does not. Now, there are new teams and new fan bases, such as KOI and Heretics. Are you considering LEC costreams?
Schmidt: Costreaming is a topic that we are constantly evaluating together with our teams to ensure that we find the right balance. We are currently broadcasting the LEC in various different languages, which are technically costreamed across the entire region, via our local language broadcast partners. We want to ensure that these are also viable streams and that they are not competing against potential costreamers as well. The LEC is also a highly-curated product and we want to ensure that we keep the quality standards high. But, that being said, I think we all see costreaming as a potential avenue in the future, which is why we will continue to evaluate it. If there are any changes, we will of course keep everybody posted.
“Not many changes involve the Valorant ecosystem, I would say. It’s mostly the opposite.”Alberto Guerrero
How much do the changes implemented in the Valorant VCT ecosystem influence the changes to the LEC and ERL?
Guerrero: Of course, we learn a lot from all the products we have, and we try to use best practices or things that we are discovering in other places. But I would say that League of Legends has the most mature ecosystem we have. It has its own path. All the decisions, or most of the decisions made, have come through the learnings from operating the LEC and the ERLs. Not many changes involve the Valorant ecosystem, I would say. It’s mostly the opposite. Valorant is following a lot of good decisions and best practices we have done in League of Legends.
Schmidt: I think that’s a very fair assessment. We are obviously in close contact across Riot to understand if there are any major shifts. That being said, I don’t think that we have taken any direct inspiration from what Valorant has been doing specifically in this regard.