The Staples Center sold out in one hour. What used to be a little known game took over one of the world’s most storied arenas.
Ten thousand people sat in the house the Los Angeles Lakers built to watch the rising newcomers SK Telecom T1 (SK-T1 K) take on the Chinese powerhouse Royal Club in the “League of Legends” season 3 World Championship. On “League’s” biggest stage, with those in attendance as well as the 32 million viewing on the web, SK-T1 K swept the best-of-5 to take the Summoner’s Cup to Korea. E-sports has finally made it.
E-sports is the future of sports. With an array of games to be played, new teams and a growing fan base all over the world, this is their time to cement themselves as a power. E-sports has everything that the average sports fan loves: Championships, underdogs, star players and a bit of controversy and drama.
All you have to do is look back to the Season 3 World Championship to see the power of E-sports. A team unknown to most of the world, Mineski, from the Philippines, was facing in their final match.
Up to this point Mineski had not won a game and from the way it was going they were not going to win another. But instead of cheering loudly for the eventual winner of the match, the crowd chanted “Mi-Nes-Ki” to show their support for these players playing now, not to win the championship, but for their pride. They may not have won a game, but they gained many fans.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In the E-sports world bans can come with big consequences. Former professional player Christian “IWillDominate” Rivera was on Team Dignitas when “League of Legends” game creators, Riot games, suspended him from pro play for a year for his “persistent toxic behavior.” Rivera returned after his yearlong ban and is now the jungler for Team Curse.
Recently the world of competitive “League of Legends” was rocked by the results of a match fixing scandal. Cheon “Promise” Min-ki of AHQ made allegations against his former manager in a Facebook post about match fixing. Min-Ki then attempted suicide by jumping off the top of a 12 story building. He survived and is currently in recovery.
In a show of how tightly bonded the “League” community is donations came pouring in from gamers, streamers and professional organizations to help Min-Ki’s family cover the cost of his recovery. Two days after it was publicized $20,000 were donated and when it was all said and done they raised $52,000.
Even though they may not all support the same teams, the league community bonds together over their love of the game. Fans have gone to Buffalo Wild Wings and other sports bars to hold viewing parties for the matches. During the most recent relegation matches for a spot in the summer split of the NA LCS, the challenger league teams beat two of the current LCS teams. After the match Team Coast mid-lane player Danny “Shipthur” Le posted to his twitter that he didn’t deserve to be in the LCS. Players and fans tweeted back to him that he absolutely did.
There is currently speculation that he will be picked up for a current professional team because even if he doesn’t believe it, everyone else has seen that his play puts him on the same level as the rest of his LCS counterparts.
But the biggest part of sports is the production. Fans love it. Nothing gets people pumped up before the match starts than a perfectly executed highlight video. OGN may have the top ones currently but other production companies are not far behind. Add in thunder-sticks, tossing prizes to the crowd between matches and the players coming out to greet fans after matches and you have the perfect recipe for holding a great live event.
Not surprisingly, because of all the sponsors and fan interest, players are understandably hyped for the penultimate event of the season: World Championships. Each year, Riot’s mastery of production is scene when they debut new elements that help the fan experience. Just like the average sporting event fans can buy souvenirs and food. The biggest difference is the playing field is digital.
Having a true world championship from their first season, Riot had eight qualifying teams from around the world compete for the Summoner’s Cup. The first world champions were held in Sweden Team Fnatic hailing from Europe. In each season, a different region won the championship.
But now after hosting the last two championships in Southern California, Riot is returning the world’s most played game back to the world. This year at least 14 teams will vie for the title of the top League of Legends team in Korea.
With at least a $1 million top prize for the winning team, everyone who competes is aiming to show just how good he or she is.
As if the prize money isn’t enough, there are also the world bragging rights and the accolades that come with it. SKT-T1 and the Copenhagen Wolves both signed lucrative clothing and sponsorship deals with New Balance and Adidas respectively.
Before you discount something as a sport, look at the players. On skill level alone they are the best in the world. So give it a chance. Come to an event. Feel the passion. Summon your champions and battle it out on the Fields of Justice.