League of Legends is embracing franchising. We knew this was coming ages ago when the NA LCS owners first expressed their desire to move to this model. And now, with Riot confirming it, franchising is not an “if”, but rather a “when”.
As the buzz surrounding North America and China settles down, there’s one region that has been seemingly forgotten. Europe.
No Time to Explain
Let’s face it, the whole situation could’ve been handled better. For starters, the announcement that the EU LCS will not be making the switch was treated as a brief update. A short line on the state of things, a puzzling remark on ‘cultural diversity’ being behind the lack of changes, and a vague promise of more news to come was all that European fans got.
Meanwhile, North America was already making its first strides towards the brighter future.
The leagues that once shared the same name seemed further apart than ever. On one hand, we have Riot working closely with North American players and team owners to establish the best competition they possibly can. On the other—well, no one’s quite sure since Europe has been surrounded by radio silence. One thing is certain—no team is safe in the EU LCS. And they won’t be for a very, very long time.
The weirdest thing about this is that there was no backlash. At least, not at first.
Fans seemed to welcome the idea of the EU LCS keeping its competitive integrity and organizations kept quite as they always have. That’s why the words of Carlos "ocelote" Rodríguez Santiago caught everyone by surprise.
Not only did G2’s owner express the opinion that franchising will make the NA LCS a clear-cut better option both for players and for organization, but he voiced concerns over Riot not making any changes to the European format. In his mind, if the EU LCS wasn’t going to switch to the franchising model, it had to have much larger financial incentives in return.
For an owner of an organization that’s been as successful as G2, these were strong claims to make. And we couldn’t agree with them more.
The Balance of Power
Talent rarely stays in Europe. The story of an up-and-coming star from the EU LCS moving to the North American league is a common one, and players like Bjergsen, Froggen, Svenskeren and Jensen have all become its protagonists. It’s not exactly shocking—after all, the EU LCS has historically been a more cutthroat league with less money circulating it.
But if that was always the case, think about how it’s going to change when North America finally switches to franchising.
Suddenly it’s not just about the money, but also about job security and benefits like Players’ Association and academy teams. Why in the world would talent chose to stay in the EU LCS if things would be so much better a plane ride away?
Of course, you could blame the league itself. It’s no secret that North America is miles ahead of Europe when it comes to branding and acquiring sponsorships. A part of it is due to the nature of Europe being such a diverse region—and diversity is hard to sell to local investors. But European teams haven’t done the best job of selling themselves either.
What do you know about Team Vitality? Or the now-relegated Giants Gaming? Remember, they’ve been in the LCS for three complete seasons. Even Misfits who started out strong struggled to remain relevant. So doesn’t it make sense that Europe isn’t ready for the step to franchising?
Similar Problems, Different Solutions
The truth is that the same ecosystem is present in North America. Only the best team make a name for themselves while the bottom feeders simply try to get by.
So if the brand power isn’t so different across regions, why is the NA LCS getting all the attention? Why is it the only league that’s going through drastic changes?
Of course, I’m not arguing that the EU LCS should scramble to adopt franchising. In sports, Europe has always had a different approach to North America. Hell, even the LCK is sticking with the relegation model. And if there’s one thing that South Korea knows how to do, it’s running a successful esport league.
But that doesn’t mean Riot should do nothing at all. G2’s ocelote mentioned how higher risk should translate into higher rewards. With franchising coming to North America, there’s an emerging gap between the NA and EU LCS. If nothing is done to bridge that gap, Europe will fall apart.
What do you think about the state of the EU LCS and franchising? Share your thoughts in the comments!