Where are the Fans? A Case for the EU LCS

Based on the results of Worlds and MSI, the EU versus NA debate is firmly in favor of EU. EU LCS has seen more semifinals and finals at major international events since 2015 than NA has since season 1. EU LCS is also shaping up to have a lot of exciting story lines this split. Group A will be a fight between the current kings of EU LCS, G2, and the old guard, Fnatic. Misfits also look strong and have a chance to take a top position in the group. Meanwhile group B will be a battle between H2K and the Unicorns of Love. Splyce is also in a position to make a bid for a top spot of that group. Even the bottom teams of each group could pull out some upsets if they find their rhythm. Roccat specifically being no strangers to slow starts.

The production value of EU LCS is very high, at least equal to that of the NA LCS. Sjokz commands the analyst desk with precision, invoking great conversation. The casters are top percentage, Deficio and Quickshot especially. There are exciting and entertaining players like H2K’s Jankos and G2’s PerkZ. The post-game interviews don’t take themselves too seriously and are still engaging as well.

The EU LCS seems to have everything going for it except for one thing. Where are the fans? The NA LCS has consistently outperformed the EU LCS in terms of viewership. Why does the EU LCS struggle with viewership so much? How does the EU LCS recover?

 

The Problems

 

One issue with the EU LCS in comparison to NA LCS is the top teams in NA have been around longer. TSM, CLG, and DIG (despite a brief hiatus) have all been around since the very first split, and were around before even the LCS. Cloud 9 joined in season three summer, missing only a single split of LCS. Team Liquid kept the Curse Gaming members when they took over, so essentially they have been around since the beginning of the LCS. NA has three teams that have been around since  the inception of the LCS and two that have essentially been around that long. The only team in the EU that has survived since the inception of LCS is Fnatic. The second oldest team is Team Roccat, joining the LCS in season four.

The long standing teams in NA have given rise to more storied rivalries and more long standing fans. Namely with TSM, CLG, and C9. CLG and TSM have been duking it out long before the LCS began. Cloud 9’s and TSM’s continued success has pitted them head to head in the NA LCS finals split after split. Each team consistently gunning for the top spot has created a rivalry between the two teams. This rivalry has only been exacerbated by the rivalry between the two midlaners, who are widely accepted to be the top two of their role in NA.

As for EU, they have largely lost any storied rivalries by way of relegations. The El Classico rivalry between SK gaming and FNC was lost to SK Gaming’s relegation. Gambit Gaming was a fan favorite team that sold their spot in the LCS after an 8th place finish in season 5 summer. Although there are some longer standing teams now, such as H2K and UoL, the teams just haven’t developed a history like that of the NA teams.

It’s also worth mentioning that EU has suffered scheduling conflicts since the beginning. The league was aired on Thursdays and Fridays during work and school hours, as opposed to NA LCS which was aired Saturday and Sunday, making it easier to watch. This made it easier for fans to keep up with their favorite NA teams, while making it harder to keep up with the EU teams.

 

Solutions

The scheduling conflicts have gotten a lot better. EU LCS airs Thursday-Sunday, before the NA LCS, making it easier to watch live for most people. So, the content is available. There has also been developing rivalries. FNC looks to dethrone G2 this season and has already taken their first win over them. UoL and H2K battled fiercely yesterday for control of group B. UoL came back from a rough early game in game 3 to take the win. Storylines are developing in EU, but slowly.

The EU LCS needs stability right now. It’s what will bring in more fans, more sponsors, and more talent. The obvious answer is to franchise. The NA LCS will be franchising next season, but the word came down from Riot that EU will not be. Although this doesn’t spell the death of the EU LCS it certainly doesn’t help. More stability in NA will only increase their viewership, and a lack of that stability in EU may hurt their popularity. It may also hurt their chances at sponsorships and investments. The idea of a stable franchised league is so enticing G2’s ocelote even entertained the idea of applying to join the NA LCS on an episode of Esports Salon. Though he said it would ultimately be unlikely given G2’s success in EU, it might not be a bad move for lower level teams.

As for Riot, they need to move to enfranchise EU if they want that region to grow like NA has. There has been no explanation from Riot as to why they don’t want to franchise EU. They have only said that there are no plans to franchise and they promise to give information on their plans for Europe “later this year”. Personally, I see no reason why EU shouldn’t franchise. It may be a bit challenging with the multiple country region, but no company as large as Riot should have an issue surmounting that. If Riot has a way to bring stability to the region other than franchising, hopefully they release it soon. EU LCS is an entertaining and talented region. Right now, it is the west’s chance to compete with the eastern teams. It deserves stability and it deserves the fandom that will come along with that stability.

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You can follow Zack on Twitter. He mostly tweets about Esports.

Photos Via Lolesports.

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