Teamfight Tactics, Legends of Runeterra, and Valorant have full-blown third party tournament circuits. Is competitive League of Legends’ focus on purely tier one events a good indication of things to come?
The definition of a tier one event in this case is one organized by the developer/publisher, such as the LCS, LEC, or LCK. I’m immediately inclined to answer “yes” to the question pitched in our title, due to the consistent degree of quality and the high standards held by Riot’s production and broadcast teams when it comes to tournaments nowadays. But let’s take a look at some past (and present) successes with third-party collaborations in LoL esports and what it may bode for the future of some other titles.
However, with recent news that the North American amateur scene is continuing to be divided among various parties within the region (FACEIT, a premier CS:GO tournament organizer, now partnering with entities such as SuperLeague Gaming, DarkStar Gaming’s BIG League, and Upsurge Esports), we’re seeing a resurgence of third party events within the League sphere.
Not these TO’s first League of Legends rodeo
While the top-level of League of Legends events was always Riot-organized, we have seen some occasionally hype tournaments come through from the likes of ESL (now North America’s premier collegiate organizer, and formerly a major player in the European Regional League ecosystem before franchising took hold and Riot internalized the leagues), the most notable examples of which were the Intel Extreme Masters international tournaments during the mid- and off-seasons.
The most fondly remembered of these tournaments is the IEM Season 9 World Championship, which saw North America’s fan-favourites TSM take their – and North America’s – first international title in a very long time.
The other highlight of LoL third party tournaments of yesteryear has to be IPL 5. IGN’s Pro League’s hadn’t been massive successes, as noted by the circuit’s abrupt cancellation the following year. But IPL 5 – hosted in the twilight of League’s competitive season 2, mere months before the LCS was introduced – was a send-off any organizer could have been proud of.
Sixteen of the world’s best teams collided only weeks after the World Championship, this time bringing Season 1 World Champions Fnatic, then-reigning Season 2 World Champions Taipei Assassins, semi-finalists Moscow Five and CLG Europe, and the team that won it all: China’s still-formidable Team WE, plus a handful of other title contenders. This is the standard that both international and third-party tournaments have been held to since, and while something so grand isn’t going to occur in the near future, it’s still interesting to see that League has taken the path it has. Riot went all-in on the LCS and its equivalents, and it has paid off tremendously so far.
Twitch Rivals exists
Perhaps the most prominent of third-party League of Legends tournaments, or at least the most popular, Twitch Rivals is a tournament circuit that has no real bearing on anything besides following. Even so, it is easy to become invested in your favorite streamers, teams, and high-ranked players as they try to navigate their way to the top.
While this format of course can’t apply to competitive League of Legends circuits, it’s still a fun way to handle things and the success and production value that it has brought to the table is very promising for the future.
Which is probably why Teamfight Tactics has such a competitive Twitch Rivals scene, given that it isn’t a team-based game and allows the participant to rely on their own skills rather than the pick-up groups that they find themselves placed into. The viewership for TFT isn’t quite as insane as it was upon initial launch – that honor now goes to Valorant – but it is still significant enough to warrant more than a few tournaments around the world. Is prolonged interest from multiple parties enough to support an ongoing tournament circuit?
Perhaps, but it’s too early to tell – we could, after all, just see a repeat of League’s first seasons before the introduction of the LCS. TFT LCS? TFTCS? TCS?
Valorant’s the next big thing
Valorant is, of course, still in early stages, alongside Legends of Runeterra. However, with the news that most organizations have been picking up tier 1 talent from around the Counter Strike / Overwatch ecosystems, there is a good indication that good things are on the horizon for the tournament circuits these games could have – global crises permitting.
Valorant, in particular, looks especially promising. Perhaps Riot test the waters with a few third-party events in a similar vein to Counter Strike, but they’ve shown with League that they are more than fine running everything by themselves.