n 2016, the Russian team Albus Nox Luna made it to the quarterfinals of the League of Legends World Championship. No one expected this from her – teams from Wildcard regions have not even left the groups until now. You can argue for a long time, they say, ANX was lucky and anyone could be in their place (which is far from a fact – they got a rather serious group ). But the main thing is clear: now you can expect anything from the teams of the Continental League.
On January 28, the second season of the League of Legends Continental League began. I talked about it with Vladimir Tortsov, eSports Manager for Riot Games in Russia and the CIS.
Continental League in 2017 – what’s new?
Vladimir Tortsov, Riot Games.
Disgusting Men: In a nutshell: what has changed this LCL season compared to the previous one?
Vladimir Tortsov: The previous season of the Continental League was the debut, so at the same time last year we were all nervous and worked hard in connection with the launch of the league. Both the structure of the league and the organization of broadcasts were all new.
This season, the most important change is the move to offline. Now all games will take place in a new studio, which we have built and equipped specially for this. Actually, the fate of the championship in the LCL region will be decided there.
DM: At the last World Championship, Albus Nox Luna ( now “M19” – approx. ) went further than any team from the secondary (Wildcard) regions in the history of League of Legends as such. And it was, of course, wildly cool.
Did it affect something? Maybe they began to treat the region differently? Any other moods began to walk around? What do they think in the central office?
VT: For us, the launch of the Continental League last year is, to some extent, such a “leap of faith”. We understood that most of the investments we make, most of the efforts we put into developing the esports scene here, was all upfront simply because our teams didn’t really shine at the international level. The level of expectation cannot be said to be outrageous, and we, being realists (and a little skeptics) did not expect that in the first year of the league’s existence we would see really cool performances of teams on the international arena.
For us, the launch of the Continental League last year is,
to some extent, such a “leap of faith”.
Well, after all these victories, it is now much easier for us to further develop the league and understand that all our investments, whether temporary or financial, are absolutely justified and definitely work in the direction in which they need to.
We determine the league’s esports budget ourselves, so it’s hard to say how much the attitude towards our region has changed in the central office. But I am sure that Russia has been placed on the map of potentially dangerous regions that can make a splash at international events.
Well, and probably still need to be added that this had a serious impact on the fans. The fact is that we see comments that were before the World Cup and after it. Of course, the number of people who support ANX specifically, or our teams, whatever they are on the international scene in League of Legends, has become much larger. Simply because they believed in the strength of the region and stopped believing that we are hopelessly behind other countries and will never catch up with them.
DM: In short, has there been less skepticism?
What is there besides esports?
Albus Nox Luna, winners of the summer championship.
DM: You, the Russian office, had an interesting initiative with student guilds. The last time they were discussed, in my opinion, was in the middle of last year. How did this initiative perform? Are you going back to her?
VT: Student guilds are really a huge, massive project that we have been actively developing since the beginning of 2015. In a sense, we are ahead of other regions in terms of our attention to university students, to all sorts of stories created especially for them. I mean both applications and special rewards for actively playing League of Legends, for joining the so-called guilds – that is, interest clubs that were created by the guys exactly on the basis of the university principle.
Back then it was a very big focus for us, but now we pay less attention to guilds. Esports for the entire company as a whole (not just for our office) has become a much bigger priority over the past year, that’s for sure. Therefore, the resources and the attention that we here in the Moscow office could afford to spend on some other things are now greatly diminished. We can say that the whole team in a rather intense mode one way or another comes into contact with various esports topics: not only the continental league, but also amateur tournaments, the promotion of our esportsmen, work with clubs, and so on.
Esports for the entire company as a whole has become a much bigger priority over the past year, that’s for sure.
But here it is important to note that all the work done by the guilds was by no means lost. Increased player activity. And there was a successful project within the framework of the student guilds – the battle of the universities, which is still ongoing. We held the last battle of the universities in November, that is, relatively recently, and it was popular with both the participants and the fans.
It is difficult to overestimate the impact of the university battles on the formation of the amateur scene, because this is one of the fairly well-organized and moderately prestigious tournaments that are held with our support. They, in fact, allow everyone who is studying in colleges, universities and so on, to try their hand at the professional arena. And if they really turn out to be good, then all paths are open to them, including professional leagues.
We are trying not just to create a professional league in a vacuum, but we use the so-called ecosystem approach, when we simultaneously develop both professional tournaments, and amateur ones, and the so-called grassroots. The battle level of universities definitely exists somewhere in this system.
Final of the Continental League-2016 at the VTB Ice Palace.
DM: What other initiatives are related to the ecosystem?
VT: We usually think of it as a pyramid, with the Continental League at the very top as the top professional league in the region. In principle, there is nothing more prestigious for players from the CIS. Eight teams is less than fifty players. This is the elite, the elite of the server, the elite of the region. It is very small in number, but it attracts the most attention from the fans.
Below in this triangle is the so-called “Contenders League” – this is, in fact, the second division. This season, we’re also taking control of the Contenders League. Last year, with our support, they were hosted by Starladder, and now, in order to slightly improve the quality of the event, we are taking it under our control. We will also be broadcasting these matches from our studio, and we are raising the stakes a bit – we allocate the prize fund there and hope that the best teams of the Candidates League will be able to get into the continental league, possibly ousting the weakest teams from there.
DM: So it’s about the same as in the American and European leagues?
VT: That’s right, the Challenger League is similar to the Challenger Series in other regions.
Finally, the base is the widest level of this triangle, which, at the same time, is of no less interest to spectators and fans, but it is the largest for participation. This is just the level of grassroots, this is the level of university competitions, amateur tournaments, both online and offline, as well as all sorts of regional stories. At the end of the previous year, we held a series of tournaments called “Country Cups”, first online, then on LAN. Finals in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan and Belarus, that is, all the largest countries in the CIS region for which we are responsible.
We held such amateur, semi-amateur tournaments, where we identified the best teams within their regions. Accordingly, only citizens of these countries could take part in them. Well, we can say that this is also a strategic direction, because it is important for us that League of Legends develops not in one place of power – not only in the capitals – but still in our entire region, and so that talented guys can break through . To have these chances regardless of where they were born, where they live, where they study, and so on.
It is important that League of Legends develop not in any one place of power – not only in the capitals.
So that the guys have chances regardless of
where they were born, where they live, where they study, and so on.
Here, in fact, the ecosystem approach is primarily in this. That is, our products and our initiatives are various leagues and championships, but this does not mean that our work is limited to this. There are other features that later, later, will frame and enhance this whole story.
DM: It turns out that the direction in which you are currently working is, roughly speaking, the desire to blur the entry point between professional eSports and the game of interest?
VT: You could probably say that. In fact, in my head there are definitely boundaries between professional eSports and amateur eSports. A completely different level of involvement is implied, completely different stakes and a different level of motivation for the players.
But at the same time, even without having the goal of making a career as an esportsman in general, not having the goal of playing in the continental league, going to the World Cup and other international competitions, many players have a competitive streak. They want to participate in tournaments, they may not have enough ranked games on the server. They, perhaps, have already conquered all the peaks and would like to participate in tournaments, they would like to experience exactly what it is like. Maybe try it for themselves, maybe they want to understand if they should build a career inside esports or in the gaming industry, or if it’s better to focus on studies or some other field of activity.
For them, we just want to create this opportunity to try to make this test drive, which is not binding to anything. Still, participation in the continental league imposes a very big responsibility and requires a very large investment of time, primarily on the part of the players, so not everyone can just immediately go there and go there.
Well, of course, we are still interested in the fact that the blood is updated a little, the lineups of the teams are updated. That is, if some veterans leave the stage, so that young promising players who can compete with the strongest opponents in any position can immediately take their place.
Why not on TV?
DM: E-sports have long been trying to pull on TV. What has changed is that lately it has really started to work out. The question arises: is it necessary at all? When people talk about esports on TV, at least on our TV, you often get the feeling that the phenomenon is viewed with some kind of condescension.
And if so, is it necessary for esports to have television?
VT: I don’t want to make any announcements here or promise a concrete appearance of League of Legends on TV, but I definitely wouldn’t rule it out. Especially considering that we have already worked with the 2×2 channel. We had several world championship shows in different years, which were held with quite a lot of success.
And, frankly, there was no indulgence there. Probably because we did not show it as part of a story about the mysterious world of gamers – it was just a live esports broadcast with our professional comments. On the part of the audience, there was a lot of misunderstanding of what I generally saw on the channel, where cartoons are usually shown.
At the same time, the question
“Who needs more of whom is needed more: esports for TV
or TV for esports?”
We at League of Legends are well aware of where our audience is. We understand that this is the generation of the Internet, these are people who spend most of their time on the Internet, after all, the game is online, it is designed for the Internet. We are making an esports spectacle with an eye on who will watch it, not who we want to “capture” by spraying across the available planet.
At the same time, I would definitely not demonize the TV and say that it is not intended for eSports. On the contrary, the reality refutes this assertion. We see more and more broadcasts of esports events, more and more desire from the other side, television, to understand the phenomenon in general, to somehow understand what esports is, whether it is a sport, whether it can be considered as such, whether it can be part of the Olympiad, and so on. .
This is all a very exciting trend, and I will say that if TV wants to stay in the cage of some relevant media in an environment where new media are rearing their heads and continue to develop, rather, the question is inevitable that television will increasingly come to publishers, but definitely not vice versa.
DM: So the goal of the current TV broadcasts is not to interest the viewers, but to interest the TV itself?
VT: I won’t say that we set ourselves a scientific and educational goal in order to interest channel directors in esports. When we agree on broadcasting, we first of all think about those who are interested in eSports and video games. It’s just that for some reason they are not yet active fans of our league or active fans of League of Legends in general. But at the same time, there is such magic that if something is shown on TV, then it is definitely for centuries, seriously and for a long time, worth attention, and so on.
Shown on TV – great, it means it is one step closer to the traditional sport, which does not need to convince anyone that this is a time-tested spectacle and a worthy pastime for people of all ages.
Just from this point of view, we are ready to continue to cooperate with TV channels. We just don’t see it as a huge priority. We are quite satisfied with the channels with which we are already working.