In the Summer of 2016, we made some big changes to the EU LCS format. We moved away from the established double Round Robin Bo1 and introduced a double Round Robin Bo2 system. The new format struck a balance between offering more strategic depth by playing a longer series, while still retaining the strengths of the Bo1 format: schedule predictability, blue/red side symmetry and every game counting. The Bo2 format doubled the amount of content, which led us to opt for a dual stream setup, featuring simultaneously broadcasted matches.
Looking at feedback from players, fans and our internal observations, we saw that the competitive and scheduling strengths of the Bo2 format held up as anticipated, however, the lack of a clear winner for a tied series left many of us feeling unsatisfied and less engaged. Further, we were not happy with the dual stream viewing experience for both live studio and online audiences. Dual stream provides us with a lot of scheduling and format flexibility, but makes it more difficult to provide a focused and holistic content experience on our current platforms. With this in mind we took to the drawing board for the 2017 season.
For each of the two 2017 EU LCS splits, the 10 competing teams will be placed into two groups of 5, which will be determined by a group draft in early January for the Spring Split and another group draft ahead of the Summer Split. In the regular season, teams will play a double Round Robin Bo3 within their group, and a single Round Robin Bo3 cross-group, very similar to the format that the LPL has adopted from 2016. This conference-style group format will offer us the interesting dynamics and stories we know from group play in tournaments, and ensure that every team in the league plays each other at least once via the cross-group phase. With the move to Bo3, we’ll add an additional layer of strategic depth to each match and will have a clear winner for each series. Also, the format will enable us to offer a more focused content experience via a single stream setup, avoiding fans having to pick and choose matches to watch in a hard-to-predict Bo3 schedule.
Aside from these bigger changes to the regular season format, we are adding Saturday as a main broadcast day and will have some Sunday ‘flex’ broadcast days. We’ve made some very small tweaks to playoffs, will have an entirely new format for promotion/relegation, and updated a few EU LCS rules and policies. Let’s dive into the details by section below.
REGULAR SEASON FORMAT
The regular season will be split into 3 sections of group competition. In weeks 1-3 teams will play a single Round Robin Bo3 against the other teams in their group. Weeks 4-7 will be a single Round Robin Bo3 against teams in the opposing group and then weeks 8-10 will move back to a single Round Robin Bo3 within groups. Teams will play the other teams in their group twice and teams in the opposing group once in the regular season.
In early January, we’ll run the EU LCS group draft, which will determine the teams for each group. Since G2 Esports and H2K gained the highest amount of championship points in the 2016 EU LCS season, they will take seeds 1 and 2 respectively, and be at the head of each group. Groups will be drafted via snake draft, similar to Nemesis draft. There will be a pick order per turn, but the team picking will select a team to go into the opposing group rather than their own. The pick order is explained in the graphic below with A1 selecting B2, B1 selecting A2, B2 selecting A3 and so on until all 10 teams are split between groups.
More information about the group draft will be released in the next few weeks, so keep an eye on eu.lolesports.com
Playoffs will retain the same format as previous EU LCS splits with 6 teams entering into Quarters, Semis and Finals. Teams will be seeded by performance in their group. The top three teams from each group will qualify for playoffs with the first seeds heading straight to Semifinals. Quarterfinals will see the second seed face off against the third seed of the opposing group, with the higher seed receiving side selection advantage: A2 vs B3 and B2 vs A3.
Winners will be reseeded going into the Semifinals to create matches between teams who did not play in the same group during the regular season. If the #2 seed and #3 seed of the same group advance to the Semifinal Round, the #2 seed of that group will face the pre-qualified #1 seed of the other group. The EU LCS Spring and Summer Finals will retain the same format with the 3rd and 4th place match-up and 1st and 2nd to determine the 2017 EU LCS Spring Champions.
Promotion/Relegation ensures that only the best teams are able to compete in the EU LCS and provides a pathway for rising new teams and talent to enter the scene. In 2017, we are adjusting the format to make the EU LCS less volatile, while ensuring that a clear aspirational path based on competitive performance remains available for the top CS teams. As such, we are reducing the number of EU LCS teams that enter the promotion tournament from 3 to 2, will keep the number of CS teams that enter at 2, and utilize a double elimination Bo5 format: Win twice - you’re in, lose twice - you’re out.
The bottom team of each EU LCS group will enter the promotion tournament. The higher seeded team (based on tiebreaker rules) will be able to pick the CS team they want to face in round 1. Winners of the first round matches play each other, and losers of the first round matches play each other. The teams with 1-1 records will then play each other in a final "decider" match. At the end of the tournament, teams that won 2 Bo5 matches advance into the EU LCS, and teams that lost 2 Bo5 matches are relegated to the Challenger Series. Groups will then be determined by another group draft for the Summer Split.
EU LCS BROADCAST SCHEDULE
We took another look at the broadcast schedule for the EU LCS in 2017. For the past couple of years, the show has been well received on Thursday/Friday, but we’ve also gotten a lot of requests for more weekend shows. As we continue to expand our production, broadcast tech and team behind the scenes, we are able to be more flexible with scheduling and start times. However, certain restrictions in Germany prevent us from having recurring shows on both of the weekend days over prolonged periods. With all those factors in mind, the EU LCS broadcast days will move to Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with some flex shows on Sunday.
In regular weeks we will be running two Bo3s per day, for 3 days, and in weeks 2, 7 & 10 we will have additional matches on Sundays. Matches will be broadcast in the afternoon (Berlin time) and we’ll have an update on the exact time when we release the full schedule. Here’s what the broadcast week will look like:
The first day of EU LCS Spring will air on January 19th, the full match schedule will be up on Lolesports at the beginning of next year, as well as ticket info for coming along to watch live in the Berlin studio.
EU LCS POLICY CHANGES
We have identified a number of policies and rules in need of updating and are also introducing some new mechanics to keep up with the ever growing demands of the League ecosystem. For those interested, details can be read in the official 2017 EU LCS ruleset - to be released soon - but here’s a high-level summary of the most important policy and rule changes in 2017:
We are raising the LCS prize pool to €200,000 per split. The way the LCS is designed, with a less top heavy and more broadly structured system of monetary support and sharing of revenue, prize pool is not meant as a primary incentive to compete in the league. However, we are doubling the stakes to recognize the overall growth of the EU LCS.
We are streamlining the process of arbitration to make sure teams have the ability to contest competitive rulings with significant team impact in a timely manner and with manageable costs. Arbitration will be handled via an independent 3rd party and may be sought for rulings that result in a suspension of 1 or more games, or a fine of €10,000 or more.
The designated head coach of each team will now have the same contract requirements, minimum compensation, and poaching protection as a player and will be listed in the Global Contract Database.
LCS-Challenger Sister Teams
In the 2017 Spring Split, EU CS teams that are sister teams of EU LCS teams will be eligible to compete in the Promotion Tournament. From the 2017 Summer Split, sister teams will not be eligible to compete in or advance to the Challenger Series, but can continue to compete in the European Regional Leagues. Further context and more information on the 2017 Challenger Series will be shared in January.
New Digital Goods
As previously announced, we are planning to introduce new Esports related digital goods in 2017, with revenue generated to be shared with participating teams. No matter when these will be introduced or how well these will perform for each individual team, we will be sharing a minimum of €50,000 per split with each team in the EU LCS for this new digital line, in addition to the existing revenue sharing for team summoner icons.
EU LCS IN THE FUTURE
We’ve come a long way since the inception of the EU LCS in 2013 and are excited about the continued evolution of European League Esports in 2017 and beyond. Year over year our team and investment into the region has grown, and so has our ambition to create an aspirational competitive environment, a viable career opportunity for professional players, an attractive business opportunity for partners, and of course, entertaining experiences for our audience.
As leagues around the globe mature and grow, so will their competitive and economic structures. In Europe, we are striving to create a more multi-layered competitive ecosystem, offering a bigger array of opportunities for seasoned and aspiring competitors over the coming years. We’ll continue to further develop thriving regional Esports environments that are linked with pan-European competition in a meaningful way and are looking forward to offering a more diversified competition structure for Europe in the long-term
We think the conference format will provide a step in the right direction and look forward to an exciting year of top-tier competition in Europe. We’ll have more information to share on the group draft and the full match schedule as well as an update on Challenger Series for 2017 in January.