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Looking Ahead at the Future of LoL Esports

The Head of Global Esports, John Needham, shares his vision for the future of LoL Esports.

In the months since assuming my new role, the Global Esports team has been hard at work building our vision for the future of esports here at Riot Games. I am incredibly excited and passionate about the opportunity to accelerate growth of our sport on a global scale. As we head into the final months of the 2019 season, I want to share a vision and plan for the future of esports and the steps we are taking to realize that future.

League of Legends Esports has never been in a better place, which makes my role both invigorating and difficult. Right now our esports teams around the world are in the midst of executing regional finals in Athens, Rio de Janeiro, Seoul, Shanghai, Istanbul, Detroit, Moscow, Kaohsiung, Tokyo, Talcahuano, and Melbourne to close the 2019 regular season. In the past 12 months, many of our leagues have made great strides to elevate our sport. 

  • In China, the LPL launched the first true home-and-away model in esports, with teams playing out of their own dedicated esports stadiums in multiple cities. 
  • In Europe, the LEC is completing a record-breaking season after a massive rebrand and move to a long-term partnership model. 
  • We’ve invested in infrastructure across the world with LoL Park (the home of the LCK) opening in Seoul, a brand new arena in Turkey, and the launch of TJ Sports (an esports joint venture between Tencent and Riot) and its state-of-the-art remote broadcasting studio in Shanghai. 
  • We’ve also seen the LCS continue to be the premier esports league in North America with new partners like Honda joining State Farm and Alienware. 

Competitively, the global skill-gap has also narrowed, driving great storylines at the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational. 

Over the past few months I’ve met with many Riot esports teams around the world to hear about their plans for 2020 and beyond. The question I’ve asked every team to think about is: “What is the most inspirational future for League of Legends esports and how can we build towards it?” Rioters have provided a lot of feedback largely centered around three main goals:

  • League of Legends builds on its position as the pinnacle of professional competitive gaming, achieving international popularity rivaling the biggest traditional sports.
  • Young players around the world choose League of Legends as a worthwhile life pursuit and aspire to be part of our ecosystem.
  • Our sport is fair, inclusive, emphasizes sportsmanship and is recognized for the positive impact it has on our communities.

To capture these ideas we established a singular vision, and it’s both a bold and an aspirational one: “LoL Esports brings joy to billions of fans around the world.” 

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This vision will drive each and every Rioter who works in esports to think about ways to provide amazing experiences to fans each and every day, and never settle for anything less than the best. In 2020, we’ll be more accessible to fans in every corner of the globe, support our growing regional leagues, and stage the biggest and most innovative live esports events the world has ever seen.  

We’ll do this by focusing on programs that will entertain longtime viewers and also bring in new fans from new places. I chose the term “entertaining’ here for a reason. Competition is priority #1, but it’s no secret that experiences such as K/DA at Worlds 2018 resonated extremely well with a wide range of fans. We’ll continue to invest in delivering memorable experiences that will thrill our community. In the past few months, partners including Mastercard, as well as Alienware, State Farm, Nike, Coca-Cola, Honda, Secretlab, and so many more have joined with us to elevate the sport, and you’ll continue to see us add even more who share our vision. Finally, competitive integrity will always be a top priority as the cornerstone to the long-term health of our sport, a commitment that our co-founders, Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck, made when they envisioned and built League of Legends.

We will stop at nothing to ensure that the world recognize that League of Legends is the premier global property in esports, sports, and entertainment. We’re currently working to ensure that the 2019 World Championship in Europe will exceed your expectations. I look forward to watching alongside you as the best players in the world meet to compete in the toughest, most competitive global esports tournament on the planet.

John Needham