Story By Jordan Moffat
Esports is a massive industry in the east, but has yet to catch on in the west despite having big sponsors and money put behind it.
Esports as an industry that has evolved into a multi-billion dollar monolith of sports that is championed in the East, but has yet to catch the public’s attention in the west.
When Brandon ‘Ryze’ Beck and Marc ‘Tryndamere’ Merrill founded Riot Games and released League of Legends for the PC on October 27, 2009 they had no clue what was in store for their future. The concept was derived from Dota 2, which was an official release and sequel to a fan-made game on the early 2000’s hit Warcraft III.
As League of Legends gained traction, it bred competitiveness. Once Riot Games released their ranking system, highly-skilled players were hungry to climb to the top just for the fun of it.
Eventually though, that wasn’t enough for the players to just have a virtual badge of honor for being the best, so they began to organize teams and tournaments with small cash prizes. Now in its 11th season of professional play, League of Legends is one of the most popular esports to watch in the world.
The first signs of its arrival was in 2013, during Season 3 of League of Legends, where North America was set to host the World Championship at the Staples Center. Tickets were sold out within an hour, at an average price of $40-100.
Riot Games was bought by Tencent, a Chinese tech company, after they turned their 93 percent stake in the company into full ownership on December 16, 2015. In turn, the LPL (League of Legends Pro League) would boom even more in popularity alongside the LCK (League of Legends Champions Korea).
Here in the west, we idolize our LeBron’s, our Curry’s, and our Brady’s, but in the east they have found esports stars such as Faker, Rookie, Doinb and so many others that kids look up to.
Even in Europe, they’ve embraced their esports stars like Rekkles and Caps. In fact, Karmine Corp, a French team, was congratulated by France’s President Emmanuel Macron on their victory at EU Masters.
You can view the original text in French below.
— Kameto (@Kammeto) May 3, 2021
The 2020 League of Legends World Championship saw its largest viewership ever with a global peak concurrent viewership of 45.95 million people as it featured Suning, a Chinese team, versus DAMWON Gaming, a Korean team. With the viewership trend constantly increasing each year, the 2021 World Finals are expected to smash these numbers greatly.
The average salary for a pro player in North America today is $410,000 per year. There are 50 slots available for starters of LCS (League of Legends Champions Series) teams. Five starters per team, with an occasional substitute player who more than likely is riding the bench and/or playing in the LCS G-League equivalent, Academy Series.
The LCS and its teams are able to pay their players this much as they’ve drawn in partnerships and sponsors with big name brands like BMW, StateFarm, MasterCard, Spotify, and more. This makes North America a hotspot for players towards the end of their career to cash out one final time and live in beautiful Los Angeles.
Cloud 9 is one of the oldest and most storied esports organizations in League of Legends, but after failing to make the World Championship for the first time ever in 2020, they knew they had to go big in free agency.
The North American team in the previous year paid Dignitas a $1.5 million buyout for their support player Phillippe ‘Vulcan’ Laflamme, which at the time, was the largest buyout of all time.
However, they went even bigger for 2021 by buying out G2 Esports’s Luka ‘Perkz’ Perković, an eight-time LEC (League of Legends European Championship) and one-time MSI (Mid Season Invitational) Champion, worth up to $11.75 million.
“I’ve been poor my whole life. I had to collect [the cents from the floor just to buy myself a snack],” said Perković recently on a Twitch stream after placing 5th at the 2021 Mid Season Invitational (MSI) in Iceland.
Now, he’s a millionaire and flying all across the globe playing the video game he loves for a living.
Esports as a whole has largely remained on the internet, however. Games and matches are not broadcasted on television, which is still quite important to the American audiences.
Whereas in Korea, China and parts of Europe, they’ve embraced internet viewership. Despite these large investments by big name companies and the appeal of a luxurious life in America, LCS viewership pales in comparison to its peers in the LEC, LCK, and LPL.
The LCS 2021 Summer Split is set to begin on June 4, with a classic matchup of Team Liquid versus TSM. You can find these games on the official LCS Twitch and Youtube channels, respectively.