For a long time now, the UK League of Legends scene has been somewhat under-developed compared to the massively competitive leagues you find in Korea, China, North America, and the rest of Europe.
The Spring and Summer Splits feature many of the top LoL teams in the world, particularly in the Korean LCK and Chinese LPL. These competitions routinely attract hundreds of thousands of fans and millions of views on streaming services such as Twitch. With it comes the big money via sponsorship deals and prize money.
While English tourneys like the ESL Premiership and UK Masters are fun in their own right, they’re dialed back from the highest ranks in about every way.
However, that could be about to change. Riot recently confirmed it’s opening offices in the UK, expressly to develop the country’s League of Legends scene.
“We’re going to rebrand completely,” said Riot UK Head of Esports Mo Fadl in an interview with Esports News UK. “We’re looking at restarting a league down the road. For this, we’re looking at a new tournament; we call it the Forge of Champions.”
What is the Forge of Champions?
Fadl termed the new tournament a “repetitive brand” and a “high-class triple-A event.” He also promised it would be a “game-changer for the UK.”
The tournament offers a guaranteed prize pool of £50,000 and two spots at the EU Masters for the best two teams. It will also feature mini-opens with up to 64 teams able to participate, with the primary focus being on improving the quality of competition.
However, there was the small matter of dealing with the many potentially unhappy UK-based LoL players who enjoyed playing in the Spring Split ESL Premiership and UK Masters events. Fadl explained the reasons behind this decision when he met with UK team owners at the Red Bull Gaming Sphere to discuss Riot’s plans for the UK LoL scene going forward and to get feedback from the teams present.
“We need a fresh start,” Fadl stated. “We’ve worked with ESL for many, many years and we’re really grateful and thankful … I don’t like to point fingers. Riot has to step up.”
How can the LVP help?
LVP is a Spanish League of Legends tournament run by Riot. It has become the most popular regional league in Europe. Riot is hoping it can use its experiences in Spain to kick start a new era for UK-based League of Legends gaming.
The UK scene is in its infancy compared to other leagues; many players do not have contracts, for example, and LVP will work to facilitate a more professional approach to League of Legends in the UK.
To enable this transition, as well as organisational measures and legal matters, LVP is also helping the UK scene by setting up a dedicated UK studio, which will act as a hub for teams to compete and for fans to come to view the games. So far, the completion date and the location of the new studio remains unknown, although the investment from Riot and LVP in the UK scene runs into many millions.
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Certainly, LVP has played a key role in developing a workable, profitable, and professional League of Legends tournament system in Spain. It’s seen an improvement in quality of the teams participating in the league and also in the viewing figures. Its aim is now to replicate that success in the UK from 2018 and beyond.
2019 could be the real year
In the Esports News UK interview, Fadl stressed the Forge of Champions tournament was just the start of Riot’s plans for the UK. His team will “now expand into the UK to focus on developing Forge of Champions and the pro league over the next three years.”
It is unclear whether Fadl meant Forge of Champions would become the new UK professional league, or that it would run alongside a different pro league, perhaps running in the off-season in between the Spring and Summer Splits in a new UK-based league.
Riot has also promised significant investment in improving the marketing of UK events, with Fadl expressing his belief that guerrilla-style marketing is his preferred form of spreading the word for esports events in the local and wider communities.
Fadl completed his interview with an exciting invitation to UK League of Legend gamers.
“For the players at home, get your friends together, you may have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity coming along very soon … Train your skills and get ready.”