While it may not be as popular as the LCS (yet), the Semi Pro scene is starting to move itself towards a similar League format that should benefit the whole scene. The recent acquisition of Imperial by Paleo Gaming signals a move within the scene that could see it grow even faster than it already is. Not only is it a melding of two of the biggest tournament organizers in the scene, it’s also a partnership that hopes to further unite the scene and improve the standards for players and organizations alike.
For those who may not know, League of Legends esports scene is almost entirely consolidated into the developer-run LCS (League Championship Series) in North America and Europe, along with a similarly formatted league in Korea, China, Taiwan, CIS, Brazil, Latin America, Turkey and Oceania regions, along with Challenger Series’ for many of these leagues. For the most part tournaments outside of Riot (the developer) sanctioned events are sparse, leaving a gap between the Pros (LCS) and Wanna-Be-Pros (Challenger Series) and ‘the rest of us.’ This is where Semi-Pros reside, just outside of the major leagues and playing a smattering of smaller sized tournaments run by third party organizers whose standards, payout, and quality can vary.
But this all might be changing. Paleo and Imperial’s coming together means that the scene is, in a way, making itself a stronger beast overall. In Paleo Ever’s own words, “[The] semi-pro scene is starting to come around, the strength of Paleo, Imperial, Initial and Reverie are all like minded, all setting our standards the same.” It’s a kind of organic unity that many of these organizers share. They want the semi-pro scene to feel legitimate for everyone involved, from fans to players, and that means higher standards for everything from prize pools to production value to coverage around the events.
Ever said that the move to acquire Imperial seemed a natural one. Rumble on the Rift, currently a weekly show match series, was moving towards an ‘LCS style’ League anyways. The move would see teams currently involved invited to qualify for higher seeding within the league, while other teams would then be invited to compete to fill out the rest. The merger, too, seemed a logical step too, bringing the strengths of both organizations together. In short, the ‘best from both worlds,’ kind of mentality, unifying the scene, the fans, and the teams, under a more singular banner in hopes of strengthening the scene and improving the experience for all involved.
The move also was done with the intent uniting the scene, for the benefit of both the community and the teams/players involved. By raising the standards of competition, Paleo hopes to cause other organizations in the semi-pro to either step up their game or eventually wilt away as teams find better homes amongst tournaments and leagues that have higher standards than them. True to its name, it’s survival of the fittest for Paleo, and this can only mean good things for the scene overall.
And when we say ‘LCS-like,’ Ever wasn’t kidding, he held no punches in the quality the league will bring. Viewers can expect bigger cash prizes, more teams, more marketing for those teams and their players, pre/post game interviews, a weekly show based around the weekly matches, highlight reels, Summoners Show cases, and articles, all of which will be geared towards the league itself. This also includes the obvious things like VODs, streams, highlights on their Youtube pages, and, another key point, a certain sense of longevity for players and teams together. The move towards roster locking helps solidify teams as a unit, rather than players that can be poached or convinced to play for a competitor right away, half way through a league, or even in the last week of it. The league will be “100% geared towards the teams and the players and the marketing for them.”
As with any move to create bigger, conglomerated leagues or tournaments, questions abound about the health and sustainability of such a move and the scene that will follow. Paleo stresses that it was absolutely vital to hear contributions from all stakeholders in the arrangement, from the viewers and fans, to the organizations themselves in the Semi-pro scene, to the teams and players involved in it. Such staples of the scene like Rozenoir, Underdog, Slay, Bladed Kings, Red Bird Esports and others were consulted for their input into the league, alongside fans and community members. Words like ‘organic’ and ‘home grown marketing’ abounded in Ever’s discussion, and it only means good thing for the league going ahead. We’ve seen many failures in esports of, often well meaning, organizations/developers trying to force esports into a community in a way that just doesn’t fit. Paleo looks to have already dodged that bullet.
To say the least, the excitement about the prospect from myself is quite high. It’s a move that the semi-pro desperately needs, and I’m one of those odd esports fans that likes league formats and standardization. It can only improve the quality of life for the players and teams involved, it’ll create its own ecosystem around the league, from interviews to articles to highlight reels, that can only propel the careers of all those involved. As it gets bigger, too, we could see a serious following of teams that are staunchly involved as semi-pro teams, possibly even see the development of talent and players be picked up by CS and LCS side teams. It’s a niche needed in the scene, and one that seems to be expertly filled by the recently merged sides. All of us at the Game Haus are more than excited about it and hope to be bringing our own exclusive covering of the events soon for fans!