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Riot Games introduces revenue sharing in EU LCS overhaul

Developer rethinks Challenger Series and looks to reward teams that "positively contribute to the success of the LCS"

Riot Games has announced an overhaul of the European League of Legends Championship Series.

Both the North American and EU LCS have been subject to sweeping changes over the past few years as Riot seek to find a sustainable model for its burgeoning esports endeavour.

In a blog post, Riot Games' Marc Schnell outlined the changes which are due to come into effect for the 2018 Spring Split.

Most notably perhaps is the introduction of proper revenue sharing. This will likely be a welcome change since prominent EU LCS team H2K Gaming has described the current financial arrangements with Riot as being "neither rational nor fair".

Schnell said that Riot was still in the "early stages of building an economic base for league revenue" but that it wanted to create some interim relief, with plans to reward teams that "positively contribute to the success of the LCS", and will be introducing a viewership bonus for teams.

"Extra financial support will alleviate some immediate pressure, but in the long-term we believe that a partnership model where league revenue is shared amongst all parties is the best route to an ecosystem where teams can grow and thrive," he said.

Other proposed changes include replacing the Challenger Series with a new pan-European tournament. The Challenger Series has come under fire in recent months, with critics saying it discourages investment in the LCS because teams face relegation twice a year.

"When Challenger Series was launched, the goal was to create an environment for teams to grow and develop talent, as well as providing a path to the top for new team organisations," said Schnell. "Unfortunately, the current structure doesn't meet these goals - overall it's a high-risk, high-investment system for teams without stability for pros, and limited exposure."

Riot will also make a number of changes to improve viewer engagement, changing broadcast days to Friday and Saturday, and doing away with the recently introduced best-of-three format, reverting instead to the original best-of-one offering.

While the developer has previously said that Bo3 was introduced to provide competitive benefits for teams, it since found that "the EU LCS has become harder to watch".

"Fans watching the league is critical for sustainability of teams, healthy salaries for pros, and the long-term success of the league," said Schnell. "We believe the move back to Bo1 will make the league more enjoyable to watch, more accessible for fans and will be better for the health of the league."

These changes should go some way to appeasing critics of the EU LCS. Back in September, H2K said that "from a business perspective we consider it irrational to continue in a partnership where our partner earns very substantial annual profits while, by contrast, we incur annual losses of over €1,000,000."

Alfonso Aguirre Rodriguez from G2 esports also raised concerns with the current arrangements.

"In the EU, if you get relegated, you're done," he said. "The Challenger Series in itself has no exposure at all. I think that should change. Make it more interesting, maybe make it different, maybe take it away or change it... If I'm a sponsor, I would would be concerned if my team was hinging between the LCS and the Challenger Series."

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