Against the background of other eSports disciplines MOBA game League of Legends stands out for some absolutely fantastic performance. Monthly play it for more than a hundred million unique users, the recent World championship was broadcast as many as 18 languages and the final match of last year’s Continental League at the ice Palace VTB visited nine thousand people. According to Twitchstats, for all the streams on Twitch stream for LoL has collected almost half a billion viewers. The figures, which are unlikely to impress fans complain that “face plants”.
Last year, the registry of official sports of the Russian Federation was supplemented with paragraph “computer sports”. Under the guise of the new season of LCL in League of Legends we decided to find out what the future holds for eSports, and what problems it faces now. On 4PDA questions were answered by the Manager, eSports Riot Games Vladimir Ends.
Popularizers like to put an equal sign between eSports and traditional sports. But this is not entirely true for several reasons. One of them is commercial. Football is a highly commercialized, however, as discipline, he does not have a single owner. You can not say about League of Legends. There is a perception that eSports is primarily a PR game, and then everything else. What do you think?
Vladimir: of Course, in e-sports there is the concept of “publisher”. And he’s usually in control of everything related to promotion and marketing and eSports side of the project. It is difficult to imagine a situation in which its owner is at football, hockey or basketball. But despite this, not everything that is done in eSports, which will promote the main product — the game itself.
Today we witness how the competitive component begins to take precedence over all other things. Naturally, Riot Games support and develop League of Legends is primary, but our goal for many years to come — the dominance of LoL as an eSports discipline. We strive to blur the line between electronic and traditional sports. Yes, differences exist, and we recognize them, but we believe that in the future they will inevitably be eroded.
The point is in the fact that some cyber projects, being direct competitors, are vying for audience. Should publishers go to meet each other and to cooperate under the auspices of the common goals? Is it?
Vladimir: the Question is interesting. Video games do compete for the attention of the players, but in the case of eSports it’s not so simple. Not to say that one kind of eSports competes with others. Of course, certain disciplines have their own loyal fans. But often we see that fans prefer to keep in the first place, their favorite team competing on several fronts.
Larger organizations have teams and a Dota 2 and League of Legends, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Enthusiasts of e-sports fans are increasingly less focused on a particular game, and are increasingly showing loyalty to the team brands or personal brands professional players.
If to speak about the efforts of the publishers — the areas in which they really need to sit down and negotiate, is not so much. Each is developing its e-sports direction as it thinks proper and optimal from the point of view of the objectives and priorities of the company. Riot Games, for example, go the way, in many ways similar to the way competitors. But if in the future there will be some points of intersection, I am confident that the obstacles to coordinate the efforts of the publishers will not occur.
You once said that League of Legends has never been directed at a wide audience. Don’t you think that a bet on hagerstow together with the closeness of the competitive ecosystems complicate the adoption of e-sports in society?
Vladimir: In my opinion, there is no contradiction. We are who we are. And LoL will never be a game for the absolute majority — it is too hardcore and difficult even with the lower entry threshold for newcomers. A cyber component, according to our idea, should attract even more elite — the cream of the number of hardcore players that can reach the highest level in an already fairly complex game.
Here is a relevant parallel in traditional sports. No one is not surprised that a completely untrained person can’t go out on the football field and play on the same level as professional athletes. Does it elitism getting in the top football clubs of the popularity of football as a sport? No, of course. It is a question of simplicity and clarity of the rules. Besides, football as a spectacle has existed long enough and had become a part of some shared cultural agenda.
LoL is a very young sport. As the game we exist very long, as the world of eSports — and less. However, now most young people are ready to understand all the intricacies of the “League” even without being active players. So part of our strategy is to develop and improve the eSports broadcast, to make them more accessible to a wide audience. To look at the game was sometimes even more fun than playing it.
What needs to happen for eSports ceased to be a niche phenomenon and entered into the life of the layman on par with football? Or it will forever remain a hobby for the elite?
Vladimir: the Short answer is time. Provided that and publishers, and other participants in the process will not sit idly by and will develop the scene. If all interested parties will continue to move the process forward, a decade later we will see that eSports have become completely familiar element of the cultural program — absolutely organic part of the sports and entertainment industries. Here, as with all innovation, a matter of habit and conservative perception.
I would like to see is a bright future. What are the goals of eSports today?
Vladimir: One of the pressing issues is what in English is called sustainability. In Russian — durability. Sustainability, autonomy eSports industry, which is able to support yourself. For us the challenge was to monetize eSports, without imposing unnecessary burden on the audience or players. We want teams to develop and obtain the necessary investments, but the fan, thus, does not remain in the loser. It is important to make eSports not only affordable, but also sustainable.
In this to the aid of partners and sponsors. The latter is not limited to the manufacturers of mice and keyboards. Football clubs, car manufacturers and other major brands are increasingly paying attention to eSports. And the more such infusions from the old, traditional industries, the stronger we are confident in the future.
Another important point is the structuring and adherence to the rules in our leagues. The viewer is first important to know that everything that happens on the competitive scene — it’s an honest wrestling, even devoid of the probability of fraud. Accordingly, great efforts are aimed at strict regulation of these issues to all participants in the process understood the consequences of breaching the regulations.
And the third actual problem is a matter of personal brands of players and their career after professional performances. As strange as it may sound, the career of kiberatlet short enough. Affect and physiological issues related to age — for example, the rate of reaction. And indeed, it is difficult to find strength and continued motivation to perform at a high level for a really long period of time.
Therefore, we, as the creators of the professional leagues, feel responsible for the employment of former Pro-players. Already many successful examples of athletes who finished his career remained in the industry and has held interesting positions in our or related industries.
Riot Games, obviously, are invested in support of professional teams, which is clearly seen on the example of “Albus NoX Luna”. How Affairs with investments from other sources?
Vladimir: When we introduce guaranteed scholarships to players or organizations, it is understood that this is the minimum amount necessary for existence and development. This does not exempt all market participants from seeking investors and partners. Clubs are motivated to have additional sources other than salaries from Riot Games — it’s just necessary to remain competitive not only at the regional level. If you do not pay a really strong player star, it can lose.
As for partners and sponsors — I can’t say that at the moment we are satisfied with their quantity and quality. In the CIS it is definitely an area for growth. I wish the teams were financially more independent and had more opportunities to attract investment from traditional industries. We, as a publisher, trying to help. In the first place — making eSports more relevant, better known.
We see our task in promoting competitive League of Legends as a great opportunity for brands to position themselves. To Express themselves to a younger audience, which they find it difficult or expensive to obtain in other ways. Young people are watching TV less, and spends more time on the Internet, including streams of your favorite teams. And the sooner brands interested in return on investment, you will discover eSports, the better it will be for them and for professional teams and the “League”.
How do you assess the effectiveness of cyber media?
Vladimir: Looking to compare. I believe that over the past year their quantity and the level increased significantly. What, in truth, not such a great achievement when you consider what a low level they were at the start. The progress in this thread are definitely noticeable. But the aim is where. Especially if you look to the West or even East — first of all, I mean South Korea and the level of lighting that eSports gets there in traditional media and in specialized. Is the abyss we have yet to fill.
As for the quality of work is today, more and more experts come specifically in eSports. Many publications, including traditional sports, open special sections. This isn’t like some kind of extravagant or experimental step. On the contrary — as an attempt to keep up with the agenda for progress, so to speak. And this is a very nice trend.
Of course, in this area we lack specialists who would be considered the unquestioned authority, and be versed in several disciplines. In traditional sports such stars is sufficient — either the commentators or the super-advanced authors with a large pool of personal fans. In eSports they are few, and those that are usually trapped within a single discipline. To go beyond the niche of history, the next generation of cyber media will have this issue to solve it.
We offer the curtain to discuss the new season of the Continental League. This year for the first time in the history of LCL CIS games are offline, and all the participants came to the Bootcamp in Moscow. Why this time, it was decided to invest in such an expensive event? In the past, this format was conducted only in final matches.
Vladimir: True. It is really a large investment on our part, and the clubs themselves are forced to spend more. In the financial aspect of the online mode much more economical — players are not to go anywhere and sit at home. To contain such a team cheaper. But this format has many drawbacks, which we have been planning to get rid of. The problems are mainly related to the fact that the conduct of matches, and involves a large number of technical difficulties, and they are not insured by any one player. In such a situation we, as organizer, can do very little. Is that to punish teams for failing to give a technical defeat, and so on. What is bad for the audience: the fans were hoping to see the fight, but instead saw the screen the game pauses. So it was important that all the matches were held under our direct control. And for applying rules in particular. Besides, now all the commands are in equal conditions is one speed of connection, one type of iron, no benefits. And of course, from the point of view of the quality of the broadcasts, much more interesting to follow the real emotions of the players.
In this season the teams come in playing at home, which should have a positive impact on the level of their training and internal communications. It’s one thing when all the players are scattered over a large area and forced to interact only on the Internet, and it’s another opportunity to live and train together. It does not know how, here we are on the path of the other regions that have long implemented this approach. For example, in North America, Europe, and Korea clearly shows that it really works and contributes a lot to the teams in terms of preparation — they’re more ready to represent their region in the international arena.
What do you think about the inclusion of sport in the register of the official sports of the Russian Federation? Once again… is there a Noticeable six months, some significant changes?
Vladimir: firstly, since only the second. As they say, what are our years! The industry is young. I want to believe that this is the last and final time we will be recognised, and steps back no more. Actually, the official recognition opens up new horizons. In particular, this is due to any tournaments outside of the professional leagues.
Now, arranging a tournament among universities, we can not worry about what colleges will rise in opposition to this event. Because e-sports has official recognition, and we have something to present in his defense. This, of course, the benefits don’t end there. A lot personally my expectations in relation to changes are not yet implemented. First and foremost, I would like to see improvements in visa policies and labour legislation. But I understand that it is not a quick process, and that recognition is only the first step.
Fortunately, we at Riot Games do not hurry and plan everything for years ahead. So getting eSports into the official registry is a very good start. This is largely still image story. The adoption of eSports at a high level gives you more food for discussion. Still talking with skeptics did not go beyond the question: “is it your sport to the registry?” Now this is the starting point for discussion, which is great in itself.
Interviewed By Anna Vasilyeva
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