by Darius Matuschak / @DariusExMachina
Photograph by: Michal Konkol / Riot Games
There’s been a lot of talk about the current state of the EU LCS. Due to the average viewer count being significantly lower than the one of the rival from NA, many fans and journalists are worried that this trend might hurt the EU LCS in the long run. Some argue that this lack of interest in the European competition stems from a lack of charismatic players. I disagree with that notion. Even though it’s certainly a factor, the main problem with the current state of the EU LCS runs much, much deeper: People don’t care for the EU LCS because it lacks a sense of serious competition.
In the NA LCS we currently have two, arguably three top teams in the form of TSM, C9 and Phoenix1. All of these teams have proven time and time again that they’re the best the league can currently offer and it’s very likely that one of these three teams will end up winning the NA LCS 2017 Spring Split Championship. What’s more important than them is the table situation below them however: We see six teams that could all end up making it to Playoffs or place within the relegation zone. Whether it’s CLG, FlyQuest or Immortals, all of these teams have faced their struggles but also managed to get surprising wins. Teams that massively improved their roster, such as Echo Fox or Team Dignitas, maybe didn’t manage to perform as well as people were hoping them to, but they are challenging teams to play nonetheless. Team Liquid recently made drastic roster changes in order to not get relegated. And then there’s Team EnVyUs. We don’t talk about EnvYUs.
In all seriousness though, the NA LCS has never been this close in terms of how good teams are compared to each other. Echo Fox managed to win a decisive 2-0 series against TSM, CLG recently got an upset win against the likes of C9. Right now it feels like every team (except for EnvYus) can beat any other team. In the EU LCS however, G2 hasn’t lost a single series in over a year of competing in the highest European league. That’s not good. It’s quite the opposite actually.
Granted, other teams like Misfits, Splyce and the Unicorns of Love got close to beating them. But they didn’t. And even if you ignore G2’s dominance, there’s a good reason as to why people don’t care for the EU LCS as much as they care for the NA counterpart: The EU teams that would eventually make it to playoffs this split, were pretty much decided in Week 6. The bottom four teams are nowhere near to giving top six teams a run for their money. And this hurts the league more than people think.
This isn’t just bad from G2’s perspective because they can essentially ignore half the teams they play. It’s bad from a viewer’s point of view: Why tune in to G2 vs Giants Gaming or Roccat when you know that the winner is decided from the start? Why watch H2K play against Origen? When you know the result from the start, there’s no point in watching the match in the first place.
People want to see exciting matches. Not necessarily good ones.
We can see this problem having a huge effect in traditional sports as well. Let’s look at the most popular sport of all: Football (or “soccer”, if you’re from a Wildcard-region (this was a joke, please don’t throw a hissyfit over it)) Despite the top teams from the British Premier League consistently failing to compete during international events (does that ring a bell?), it remains to be the most popular football league by a landslide. Despite other leagues featuring Champions League contenders like Bayern Munich, Real Madrid, Barcelona or Juventus Turin, viewers still prefer the English Premier League over any other national competition. Why?
Because even though the top teams can’t compete internationally, it’s still by far the most fun league to watch. It always feels like a team in 17th place can beat a top three team if they just prepare correctly, and matches between teams that are close to one another are always a treat to watch. The Bundesliga might feature the most goals per game, the Calcio A the best defensive football you’ll see, but viewers will still prefer the Premier League. Not because they want to see the best football. They want to see the most exciting one. The NA LCS is very similar to this.
The lack of charisma can be traced back to lack of competition as well
Certainly, having veterans and players with a strong personality can help the league in order to make it more popular. Players like Doublelift or FORG1VEN might polarize, but they certainly make people tune in to see whether their big words hold any truth. When a lot of prominent EU figures, such as FORG1VEN, YellowStar and (originally) xPeke left the scene to focus on other areas, that might’ve lowered interest, but I disagree with it being a main factor. Seeing Dyrus, Hai or Doublelift leave before didn’t really hurt the NA LCS either.
Besides, charismatic players and their personalities are built by competition. Whether it’s the “arrogant” PerkZ for having high opinions of himself that are arguably well deserved, given G2’s record, or the always ignored PowerOfEvil who got himself quite the fanbase, these characters were built on the will of competing against other top tier teams. But when you feel like that half the matches you play within a season are pointless, it’s harder to built a character compared to when you play your heart out because every match, every point matters.
What Riot did wrong
Riot also did some things that might’ve hurt the EU scene however. Starting with constantly changing the schedule and way in which the EU LCS works, which felt like a cheap way of trying things out that might be implemented for the NA region as well if they work. And if they don’t? Well, it’s “just” EU, right? First it was the tie-system. Then came the group system, which is an American league system unheard of in Europe. I sincerely doubt that Riot would be so experiment-friendly with their NA league as they are with the EU counterpart.
You can also take a look at how the EU and NA LCS are advertised on Riot’s social media: Posts about NA LCS dominate their instagram account and the “Match of the Week” promos are nowhere near each other in terms of quality. On one hand you have the NA teaser, which features players and their lovely trash talk before the game and a huge focus on narrative:
And then there’s the EU equivalent which can be described as a “highlight reel” at best and basically has no narrative whatsoever. No background on the players, no interviews, nothing that would make players and their teams interesting enough to watch other than for pure skill. Which just isn’t enough in this day in age:
Additionally, we have the fact that it’s currently pointless to draft EU players in Fantasy LCS. This can be viewed as a minor detail. But if you add up all these points, it doesn’t feel like the EU LCS is getting the same treatment as the one from North America. At least not by Riot.
Worry not, this is going to change
There are good news however: Teams like Schalke 04 and potentially PSG will most likely end up replacing one or two current bottom tier teams in the EU LCS. And they certainly are forces to be reckoned with, teams that can compete for playoffs spots. Maybe Team Vitality will end up fixing their problems, maybe Roccat will get more investors/sponsors on board. Either way, there’s hope. There’s hope that we won’t see this huge discrepancy in skill between EU teams next split.
Oh, and if we could just have a normal league system, without the group system shenanigans? That’d be great. Riot pls.
If you liked this article, please consider following the writer on twitter,donating a small amount to our Paypal and/or support our work on Patreon. Every piece of support counts and is very much appreciated!