Riot Games is upending the League of Legends eSports scene. As reported by Yahoo eSports, the company is changing the way its North American League Championship Series beginning with the 2018 season.
One of the biggest changes will be greater stability in the field of competing teams. Beginning next year, all teams in the LCS will be considered permanent partners of the league, so they won't face the prospect of relegation every split (half-season) as they do now. However, they will lose their spot in the LCS if they finish in the bottom two spots of the 10-team field five times in the span of eight splits.
This stability comes with several catches. Perhaps most notably, Riot is requiring a $10 million buy-in from team owners, as well as credit and background checks.
"The reason that we're doing this in this way is we're not optimizing for the highest dollar," Riot co-head of eSports and head of merchandising Jarred Kennedy told Yahoo. "We're not looking for mercenaries who can pay the highest price and therefore have the highest ability to extract dollars from our fans or our scene and get a return on that investment. What we want to do is use this process to find the right set of partners who are going to build this league with us."
That money will in part go to fund another major change for the league, the creation of a Player's Association that Riot will fund until such time as the players can pay for it themselves. The association will represent the players in negotiations with Riot and individual teams, as well as providing other resources and support to assist its members.
Other changes include the introduction of revenue sharing, which will see teams, players, and Riot split league-based revenues roughly equally. That's not exclusively beneficial for teams, as they will also be sharing a portion of their sponsorships and merchandise sales. Riot said the intent is to keep all parties' interests aligned while still allowing for the best players and owners to earn "outsized revenues."
Finally, the Challenger Series (to which poor performing LCS teams used to be relegated) is going to be eliminated in favor of an Academy League, in which each LCS team will run its own minor league affiliate. Riot hopes that will give the top teams a better place to develop new talent.