With League of Legends growing at a rapid pace, more and more teams are looking to throw their hat in the ring for a chance at multi-million dollar prizes and glory in front of millions of fans. Riot Games is looking to feed that fervor by inviting some additional guests to the party.
The League of Legends developer announced yesterday it will expand its professional leagues in North America and Europe from eight teams to 10. Spots in the League Championship Series, or LCS, provide an opportunity for teams to hone their skills against the best in their region and potentially earn a spot to compete in the League of Legends world championships.
The current competition format provides a way to keep fresh talent cycling into the professional leagues and pro teams from becoming complacent. Each year of the competition is broken into two shorter seasons, called “splits." At the end of each split, the bottom two teams from regular season games and the sixth place team from the end-of-split tournament are required to defend their place in a “promotion tournament”—similar in many ways to European soccer leagues.
This this features upcoming teams, or “challengers," that have proven their worth in Riot-run qualifier tournaments against other challengers. However, while these tournaments do allow challengers to hone their skills, even the best are often seen as unprepared to challenge their professional foes, who have been training and competing at the top level for several months.
Riot will fill the two new spots in the LCS of each region by holding an “expansion tournament." Teams that fail to qualify for the LCS through the promotional tournament will be automatically entered into this expansion tournament for another chance to qualify. Information regarding official dates, structure, and competition format are pending the completion o fthe World Championships in October.
Riot is also considering a new points system to give more meaning to each game in the competitive season. In its current form, only the end-of-season tournament provides any long-term benefit: qualification for the World Championships. The mid-season tournament currently awards prize money to top performers, but has no effect on the World Championships. This system creates a lot of relatively meaningless games, as teams see little value in placing well in the first half of the season.
In order to increase the importance of performing well all year long, Riot is considering using “circuit points" While details are not finalized for the LCS, the Korean professional league currently uses a circuit points system to determine who qualifies for the World Championships from their region.
In the Korean league, teams are awarded for performances across all phases of the competitive season. Placements in each phase are awarded with circuit points toward a running total. The two teams at the end of the season with the highest accumulated points are automatically qualified for the World Championships. The third qualifier from the region is determined through a single-elimination tournament involving the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth-place finishers in circuit points.
The system does make each game more meaningful toward the end of the season. However, Riot is understandably concerned about the complexity of the system, particularly in the eyes of new viewers. In the interim, the tournament organizers are welcoming feedback while they run numerical simulations to determine the best format for the competition.
Screengrab via Riot Games/YouTube