Before an official partnered league comes in 2019, Riot has confirmed that they are making some significant changes to the EU LCS for the 2018 season, which will begin January 19th. Let's take a look at the main changes below, along with their implications for the EU LCS and its future.
Starting from the 2018 Spring Split, the EU LCS will adopt a single league, double round robin best-of-one format. Try saying that one twice.
These changes replace both the group league system and the best-of-three format that were used last season. Riot explained that these changes are being made to make it easier to watch EU LCS games, as fewer games means less time commitment for fans every week. This is based on research by Riot that concluded that the Bo3 format was reducing league viewership, due in part to this time commitment.
In a further effort to improve the numbers, Riot also announced that starting from January, EU LCS games will be broadcast on Fridays and Saturdays. This move aims to condense the number of broadcast days, whilst still ensuring that games are broadcast at the best time for European viewers.
On one hand, the above changes will make it much easier to watch a variety of EU LCS teams and their games. But it will disappoint any fans who support a specific team with fewer games they get to see across the Split.
Promotions and relegations
Promotions and relegations will now happen annually rather than after each Split. The main driving force behind this change is to ensure teams have more stability and can plan their team rosters, strategies, and financing over a longer term period. This links in to the changes to the EU LCS’s financing, which is discussed in further detail below.
Goodbye Challenger Series
As there will be no mid-season promotions or relegations, the Challenger Series will be removed in 2018. In its place will be a Europe-wide tournament that will take place twice a year. To qualify, local country teams will play against each other regularly throughout the year, and the best of these teams will compete at the tournaments. Further details will be released in due time, but the intention is that these events will help to better showcase up-and-coming European talent.
Riot also announced that teams in the EU LCS will be given more financial support for the upcoming season, whilst longer-term financial deals are being completed.
Although Riot has kept quiet on the specifics of these deals, they've confirmed that EU teams will be given financial incentives during the 2018 season based on how many viewers tune into their games. Such incentives encourage teams to further develop their brands and strengthen their fanbase to maximise potential earnings.
Such announcements are timely, given that there have been reports of pro teams having issues with funding. The main example of this would be H2k Gaming, who recently published an open letter to the EU LCS community which stated that H2k incur annual losses of over one million Euros to compete in the league. Whilst promises of additional financial aid will undoubtedly be welcome news to the pro teams in the EU LCS, such changes have arguably been a long time coming already.
Many of the above announcements are only a stop-gap until Riot can transition the EU LCS to a partnership system in 2019. Most of these changes will be welcomed by the league’s pro teams with open arms, who will then have more financial security to develop their rosters and develop their fanbases. But some fans will be disappointed by the move towards a Bo1 format, as this will mean less time to watch their favourite teams out on the Rift.
To read all about the changes, the full announcement by Riot can be read here.
What do you think of the latest changes to the EU LCS? Let us know in the comments below!