It’s no secret that the past year was a shaky one for esports in general, and hardly any leagues or circuits suffered more than the notable North American competition, League of Legends LCS.
From dwindling viewership, a noticeable decrease in fan interest, and a player-led walkout at the beginning of the Summer Split, the LCS saw its share of hurdles in 2023 than it has recorded over the previous years collectively. Riot Games isn’t in denial about this fact.
Prior to the LCS Summer Finals yesterday, Carlos Atunes, the new head honcho of LoL esports in the Americas for Riot, and Raul Fernandez, head of NA esports for Riot, held a detailed press panel discussing everything LCS. The discussion touched on topics from the league’s stability, key takeaways from a challenging 2023 season, and Riot’s optimism towards the LCS future.
“Esports have seen an extraordinary year worldwide, but despite the difficulties at Riot, we foresee a promising future packed with potential, particularly for the LCS,” stated Fernandez. He reassured that Riot is keen on continuing its investment in the LCS to ensure long-term steadiness for a league hailed as the epitome of esports competition in North America.
Fernandez and Atunes both have extensive histories with LoL esports, tracing back their career journeys to the mid-2010s, when the game’s competitive scene was somewhat in its early development. However, the crystalizing of how the LCS would look like in the next 15-20 years is the real challenge.
Fernandez made it quite clear about the LCS financial health being intact, thanks to the sustained and continued support from external partners, teams, sponsors, as well as internal backing.
“In the grand scheme of things, Riot is committed to esports for the long haul. Despite the fact many other companies stepping out of this ecosystem, our ongoing investment in esports speaks volumes about its importance, and we plan on doubling down to ensure sustainability for generations to come,” Fernandez added.
Even if the viewership isn’t necessarily where Riot envisions it to be, the engaged core audience isn’t completely alienated. The more the LCS prolongs its existence, the stronger it roots itself as a traditional brand within the esports realm.
The previous season saw a continuous dip in the LCS viewership count, with the grand finale experiencing a significant downfall compared to the last six final series. Yesterday’s final reached a peak of 223,943 concurrent viewers, nearly 50,000 less than the spring final, according to data from Escharts.
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“We are devoted to making the LCS more accessible and comprehensive for a larger audience, reconsidering promotional strategies, as we see there are areas we can improve and connect,” said Atunes ahead of the grand finale. “But, we also need to focus on engaging the fans before, during, and after the ban-pick phase to help them better connect with us.”
As Riot moves into 2024 and beyond, their primary objective is to reclaim the fans who might’ve transitioned away from LCS in recent years and establish consistent season viewership from North American League enthusiasts who only tune in when their favorite teams play at Worlds.
It wasn’t too long ago when LCS events attracted triple the number of viewers who tuned in for this weekend’s finale. The potential exists, and if the LCS can relight that spark that propelled professional LoL to the apex of esports in the late 2010s, there’s still hope for a robust comeback.