The recent announcements from Riot about the changes to North America’s professional League of Legends league, the NA LCS, is a multifaceted and complex development that pushes toward what most are calling a brighter future for esports and the popular MOBA title. One criticism of the new format for the NA LCS is that by doing away with the possibility of relegation, Riot is eliminating part of the competitive incentive to perform within the league.
League of Legends NA LCS Without Relegations
The idea that teams will be less competitive once they are no longer faced with the possibility of losing their NA LCS spot is ridiculous for several reasons. From just the standpoint of the players, these are people who stood out in a highly competitive, skill-focused game and became the top players out of millions. Any professional player in any esport is competitive by their very nature.
But that assumption is not the only reasons fans can be sure that NA LCS games will stay at least as competitive as they were before. In all likelihood, the level of competition will improve, but that’s a completely different argument. For now, consider the teams that actually face the threat of relegation, as opposed to the teams who have no chance of falling that low in the standings after even just a few weeks of play.
Take the Spring Split 2017 for example. Team Liquid and Team EnVyUs ended up in the Promotional Tournament with their NA LCS seats on the line. And while it’s true that the competition was close, and several other teams, such as Echo Fox, were also in range, it’s equally true that several other teams never saw a glimpse of the possibility of being relegated. And those teams were Team SoloMid, Cloud9, and Phoenix1, primarily speaking. These were the teams that had some of the most contested and exciting matches in the Spring. Additionally, these were the teams looking at potentially heading to the international scene at MSI. Sure, relegation was weighing heavily on the mind of Team Liquid CEO Steve Arhancet, but how could it have been a driving force for anything that Team SoloMid did in Spring? CEO Andy Dinh and the roster are driven by the goals of dominating the NA LCS and achieving success internationally. There’s no reason that will change in a post-partnership world.
The new announcement for professional League of Legends in North America comes with plenty of valid questions. Who stands to benefit the most between Riot, the teams, and the players? Will the $10 million investment be worth it? Will LCS teams fielding challenger teams do anything to increase the talent pool in North America? But whether the level of competition will be reduced without the threat of relegation just isn’t among them.