Continuing the Conversation on Esports Sustainability
So... Andy did an interview criticizing the timing of the laneswap gameplay changes, and I reacted emotionally. Andy and I go way back, and I like him, respect him, and really appreciate everything that he and TSM have done for League. My initial response to him read as a direct attack, I know that it hurt Andy, and for that I’m sorry. My post was clearly not the best way to engage in this complex topic. It did, however, spark a larger conversation about a topic that we’re all passionate about: the future of League esports.
I admit, when thinking about how to jump into this conversation, my first instinct was to debate the reasons we’ve made certain decisions, nitpick allegations of selfish behavior or otherwise justify actions we’ve taken. It was a too-quick emotional response because of my passion and pride in the growth and state of esports today. But like Andy notes, none of these things are productive, so let’s focus on the solutions; I (along with Riot’s esports team) know that there are still gaps in the system that we need to address, and believe we owe it to the fans and teams to focus on the areas where we think League esports can be better. This won’t be comprehensive, but I’ll focus on a theme everyone has raised and an area that we really want to improve - sustainability.
This may surprise some, but I actually agree with a lot of the points Andy makes about sustainability in the LoL ecosystem: League esports (in its current form) doesn't provide the long term security and sustainability that we ultimately aspire to for teams and pros. Team costs are rising faster (and in some cases are higher) than team revenues, and while this may be the short-term reality of growing a young sport (particularly as the value of teams grow), it's not what we believe the long-term state of League esports will be.
This is why when I said that I love me some Regi, I meant it. We both believe in the same future of esports: one where fans can proudly all around the world can support their favorite teams, one where teams can invest with a confidence of return on that investment, one where pros can be paid extremely well for their dedication to our sport, and one where we create a multigenerational sport that players dream about joining.
Building a self-sustaining global sport requires more revenue generation opportunities for all parts of the ecosystem, and we know there’s more we can do to further unlock the value of the leagues for owners and pros. Our 2017 plans include new in-game team-specific items with revenue-sharing for teams and pros, as well as smaller steps like working with teams to sell more jerseys - currently in the NA LCS studio store and at the summer finals in Toronto - and with the cooperation of teams, we hope to bring them to our online store as well. These are just a couple of examples and we’re exploring a lot more major steps, like league sponsorships, franchising, media rights, etc.
As the ecosystem continues to mature and these things develop, they will come with a new set of challenges and questions that are difficult to answer. As we build additional revenue streams for multi-esport organizations, what mechanisms should we put in place to help ensure that the right amount of revenue is shared with their League pro players? Who decides what is the right amount? Is it even fair for Riot to influence these third-party teams in this way? There is no road map for this, and we need to continue to learn together with our partners the way we have since we started on this esports journey back in season one at Dreamhack.
Also, we understand sustainability goes beyond League revenues - pros are an integral part of growing a sport, and creating an environment that allows them to excel and extend their careers is something we aim for. Patch timing has an impact on pros as they prepare to compete in the season and for major tournaments like Worlds or MSI, and while we believe adaptation is an important skill in a game that constantly evolves, we acknowledge that we haven’t gotten some of our major patch timings right when it comes to esports. The Juggernaut patch last year was too close to Worlds. This year, our laneswap changes once again didn’t give teams much time to prepare, but we moved forward believing it will lead to better games and a better viewing experience for fans. We will do a better job of communicating sooner and will ensure that changes such as these that significantly impact esports happen earlier on in the split to give players more time to adjust.
I appreciate and respect the commitment that Andy and so many other long-time owners have made to help LoL esports become what it is today. We still have a long way to go and we are committed to being a more effective partner with teams and owners to help navigate through all of the future challenges we will inevitably continue to face together.