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League Of Legends: What's Going On With LCS?

It's no secret that the North American "League of Legends" pro teams aren't the best in the game. With no World Championship wins, or even second-place wins, the region has never had the strongest teams. Despite this, the LCS (or "League of Legends" Championship Series based in North America) used to be more popular than the LCK (or "League of Legends" Championship Korea) in terms of average viewers, as seen in the comparison between the Spring event in the regions in 2017 (via escharts).

As time has gone by, regions have grown. The LCK went from an average of 108,000 viewers in 2017 to an average of 247,000 viewers at the same event in 2022. The LPL (or "League of Legends" Pro League in China) has gone from an average of 8,000 viewers in 2018 to nearly 43,000 viewers in 2022. According to Rift Feed, "League of Legends" itself has also grown through the years, contributing to these rising viewer numbers.

However, while the game and its pro scene are getting more popular around the globe, the LCS is falling behind, and people are questioning if the region is dying because of how little viewers the tournaments have. Viewership has always varied slightly in the LCS, peaking with several events drawing in over 200,000 average viewers. Things started declining in 2021, and 2022 has struggled to pull in more than 120,000 viewers, which are record low numbers. 

There are several potential reasons why the LCS has seen such low numbers.

Why the LCS is falling behind

There are several potential reasons why the LCS has seen a decline in viewership. One Reddit user has even attributed it to the games scene in NA, arguing that competitive esports games in the region are just on the decline across the board. Another argued that the game's player base has grown up and doesn't have the spare time it requires. In order to stay alive, "League of Legends" needs to target younger players.

Christian Vejvad with Jaxon.gg explained that the LCS doesn't have players with personalities, citing past pro players like Reginald and HotshotGG as examples of fun players to watch. According to Vejvad, personality-driven players kept the region interesting to watch, and pro players would stream and get a fanbase that cared about watching pro games. However, teams in the LCS started focusing on improving play with harsher schedules, leading most pros to avoid streaming. Ultimately, Vejvad argued that — because viewers aren't drawn in by big personalities — the LCS has seen a decline in viewership.

Sabrina Ahn with EarlyGame claimed that the incoming talent might have something to do with the decline of the LCS as well. Grassroots don't last long, and even talented university players don't try to make it pro after getting an education. According to Ahn, this has led the region to import players from other regions, which also contributes to the missing connections between fans and pro players.

While no one knows the full reason, the LCS has taken steps to reverse the viewership problem.

How the LCS is trying to change

The steps that various teams within the LCS have taken make it apparent that officials in the region are trying to find solutions to the viewership problem. One of the biggest things comes from TeamSoloMid, or TSM. On October 18, TSM announced Erobb221 would be joining the team.

This looks like TSM is directly tackling the idea that fans aren't invested in the players themselves. Erobb221, brother of one of the best "League of Legends" streamers Tyler1, has a pretty big online following. While Erobb isn't the biggest streaming name in the game, Tyler1 arguably is. Tyler1 has played plenty of games with his brother in the past, and he will more than likely support Erobb's future pro games. In fact, Tyler1 has already supported his brother by working on his TSM announcement video on his day off.

The LCS is also experimenting with ways to make the tournaments more entertaining for fans, such as live communications from players during the games. Riot even pulled in Lil Nas X for a "League of Legends" Sketch and Worlds 2022 song. Considering Lil Nas X's popularity in North America, this could be a move to promote viewership of the region.

Pro players have spoken

The idea that the LCS is dying is so popular that many pro players have addressed it. One of the biggest names that has mentioned viewership is Team Liquid Bjergsen, who's been playing in the LCS since 2013. In an interview with Dexerto in August 2022, Bjergsen explained that the LCS had addressed the low viewership and there was "ongoing conversation" about how to increase interest. He also gave some insight into the idea that the LCS and Riot are working together to come up with a plan for years to come. However, he did deny the idea that the region is dying.

On the opposite end of things, former pro player Doublelift argued that the LCS was dying and that it wasn't helping itself by banning pro players from playing in for-fun tournaments. This was regarding an issue where Bjergsen was not allowed to participate in MrBeast and Ninja's "League of Legends" tournament in July 2022. While Doublelift doesn't play professionally anymore, he does co-stream the LCS games. However, after speaking his mind and criticizing the LCS, he was temporarily banned from co-streaming the games.

The LCS can't deny the issues with viewership, and it's clear that they're working on implementing change in the background. The question is if it will ever be enough to pull in numbers from the region that the LCS saw in earlier years of "League of Legends."