If you’ve wondered why League of Legends is the hottest competitive title right now, this is probably why. Apart from the multi-million dollar tournament last year and the free HD live streaming all year long, Riot is dedicated to go all the way to catapult eSports to higher grounds by building stadiums and paying progamers stable salaries.
In an interview on PC Gamer Dustin Beck, Riot’s VP of eSports, and Whalen Rozelle. Community eSports Manager discussed Riot’s (developers of League of Legends) plans for eSports in 2013. Among providing consistent scheduling, supporting the underdog, learning from real sports and human interest pieces, Riot revealed their battle arenas to be used as stadiums.
“We have the battle arenas in Los Angeles and in Cologne, Germany—that one we’re partnering with ESL on. This is going to be our stadium. It’s where our teams go to play in weekly matches. If you watched the qualifier, it took place at the arena. We’re using a bunch of high-quality cameras and backdrops and settings. We went big on both of these arenas so we could have a production level similar to any other traditional sport.” said Beck.
The challenge however won’t be sustaining an eSports stadium, but acquiring a justifiable spectatorship, which I’m sure the game does not lack. The League of Legends Garena Stadium in Singapore is a 5000-square-foot area with just about everything that makes an eSports stadium perfect. Big screens, shoutcasters, merchandise shops, a fancy deli where you can stuff your face with delicious pastries and a gaming area where gamers can experience gaming with premium gaming gear and peripherals. There seems to be no problem filling it up either.
The other important thing mentioned was paying gamers stable salaries. This means, that teams don’t have to worry about winning multiple tournaments to earn money or depend on sponsorships:
“A lot of the teams are moving local to LA and to Cologne so that they can have gaming houses nearby. The cool thing about the structure of the league is that this is now a legitimate, viable profession for these guys. They no longer need to worry about playing in tournaments and playing for prize money or eyeballs for sponsorships. These guys are in the league. They’re going to be seen every week. They’re getting salaries that allow them to dedicate their career to playing League of Legends. It’s going to up the level of competition and put the U.S. and Europe on a similar playing field to the Korean teams…
“We’re creating an ecosystem for these players. It didn’t really exist in North America and Europe. I’m sure you know that the Korean teams don’t pay salaries, for example. All of the revenue that was coming in went towards those top few teams that were winning tournaments. [The LCS] allows a sustainable league and ecosystem to exist. Now you have these teams that are all making this money. They don’t need to worry about coming in fourth place at a tournament and actually losing money because they need to pay for travel and hotels. This allows them to focus on what they do best, which is playing League of Legends.”
What an incredible direction for Riot to go into and hopefully other tournament organisers or companies like Blizzard will do the same. Instead of worrying about a prize pool that’s a once off payment when it’s over, offer gamers a profession with a salary. The best thing about this is, that not only the winners get paid, but teams lower on the ladder get rewarded for their hard work too.