Franchising in the World of Esports Part 1
According to multiple sources, Riot has decided to scrap the relegation model and move to franchising in 2018. The first taste of this will be in the LPL where they will officially move to the new model this summer. All of this came after Blizzard similarly announced that they would be franchising for 2018 as well. Now that we got the old news out of the way, let me tell you why franchising is the best thing for League of Legends and Esports as a whole.
Many people have given reactions and opinions to this news. In this three-part series, I will also be putting my opinion out there. I plan to tell you how I envision the new structure could work and some of the realities of it all.
To start, I have been asking for Riot to do this since around this time last year. After owning GameHausGG for a few months, I could already see the struggle of even attempting to get a team into Challenger, let alone LCS. The amount of money it would cost was unreasonable (unless you had a lot of backing), and players were and have always been extremely flaky. There is no set system or organization to the whole thing. Players, coaches, and even owners are still as unreliable as ever. (We wrote about the recent Blue Rose debacle)
With all that in mind, I have personally found that there needs to be a real structure in place. Trying to get to Challenger is what every amateur team strives for, yet many of the best never reach it because of “Academy” teams, or as I like to call them, “ways for their mother teams to get more money by selling off their LCS spot.” Academy teams are a major reason why the Challenger league is not only boring, but also a waste of time.
Normally these teams consist of four reject vets and a rookie, Flyquest being the outlier. The mother teams take a chance because they know it wont cost them much, and it gives these players a chance. Then they normally win due to better backing and they are sold to the highest bidder.
For those of you who may argue that this is a common practice, please look at the closest comparison, the EPL. Relegation happens all the time, but teams do not create sister or ‘Academy’ teams and then sell their spots.
While I understand that many of the owners are losing money, this system will help them short term, but may hurt them long term. Luckily it is rumored that Riot has decided to ban Academy teams.
So far Overwatch has not had this problem, but they also have not been established as long. For now I think that Academy teams will not be something that plagues the new Overwatch league.
CHALLENGER TURNS INTO THE MINORS?
Luckily I believe franchising will end and fix all of these problems in Challenger.
Challenger is the perfect opportunity to develop League of Legends’ next stars. While it has done that to a certain degree, it needs to be an established minor league. They can model it after the minor leagues in baseball, or an even better comparison would be the D-League in the NBA.
This developmental league would allow for players to hone their skills. Every team could be associated with a pro team where they could call up or send down players.
It would be its own league that could be promoted as such. The players would get their chances to shine, and those of us who watch League of Legends religiously could have a new thing to complain about, teams not making certain call-ups and sending certain players down.
Overwatch could very easily institute a similar approach. A developmental league of some type for Overwatch would be extremely beneficial as we barely have any established players, teams, or even styles to the game yet.
So what would adding minor leagues solve?
To start, it would allow for the player pool to grow immensely. People could actually have a better chance of being picked up by orgs to be developed in the Minors just like they do in traditional sports. This could have a huge trickle down effect as well.
Colleges could groom the players thus adding another league, again similarly to traditional sports. Then teams could have scouting departments that could either pick players up or they could even do a developmental draft. That would be the dream. Tell me you wouldn’t watch a League of Legends or Overwatch developmental draft? Your favorite team could pick the next big star and the hype would be all too real. But, I must remind myself, one step at a time.
Also these minor leagues would give players more of a chance to go professional and build their own brand. For now it is all about players trying to grind in solo queue and hope that they get picked up. All the while they are still living at home with no guarantees of a potential career.
Lastly, this would give the players at all levels some real stability and organization. Signing with a team and being in their minor league system allows for these players to get a good contract and know that they could be called up at anytime. They would not have to wait and hope that their team would play into the main league. Also they would know that they are affiliated with an established brand. They would not have to create their own, the fan base would already be there for them.
So why would you, as a fan, want this minor league or Challenger system?
I will start with the most obvious answer, more games and players for you to watch. There would be series of your favorite game being played more often. You could watch these lower leagues to try and see if your team has some good potential talent to bring up and help the roster, or if they need to bring in different talent. Also you could just watch good gaming all the time.
Another reason is that this system would help the established teams quite a bit. Sponsors would be way more likely to invest in this type of system. You know why? Because they have seen it work with traditional sports. Investors and sponsors are more likely to give their money and time if they know something works.
Lastly, this would also create the possibility of even more teams in the league. League of Legends for example, only has 10 teams in NA and EU. Wouldn’t it be awesome if they had more? With an established minor league system, more people would want to be owners. They would understand the organization better and feel better about establishing a new team. With that, they would establish more minor league teams.
I feel as though I have opened Pandora’s Box with all the possibilities of a minor league system. The new franchising could offer all of this and more.
It also could not solve anything with regards to Challenger and the amateur scene of esports.
Honestly, it will depend heavily on the owners and the companies like Riot and Blizzard.
I understand that many people want esports to be different than traditional sports and they are against the ideas of franchising. My only response is, who cares? They will model it after these traditional sports because that model works. In my opinion, doing it like this will ensure that esports is more than a fad. It can last for decades and people can feel comfortable growing up watching Bjerg or Faker and knowing their legend will continue like Babe Ruth’s or Michael Jordan’s.
Wow, this is only Part 1! Tomorrow I will be looking at how franchising will grow each esport and their individual leagues.