When Riot Games first announced that the NA LCS would adopt a franchising model, the reactions were mixed.
It meant better salaries for players and bigger financial benefits for the teams. With franchising, the business aspects of the esports becomes more legitimate to those looking in from the outside.
This is a billion dollar industry and franchising will help to grow it further. It is the first step towards a world where esports is as popular as regular sports.
For the most part, it seems to be a great initiative. EU LCS owners are already looking forward to adopting the model. So far, it’s going well for NA LCS, but many still wonder whether it will really bring the results that Riot wants.
Newcomers and betrayals
To be part of the NA LCS, teams had to be willing to provide a structure and environment that helps players to develop. However, this raises concerns that teams will simply replace their rosters if they don’t perform well.
The first example of this happening was in pre-season, when Team SoloMid got rid of three of its five players. They were replaced with through imports from Europe, with Jesper “Zven” Svenningsen and Alfonso “mithy” Aguirre Rodríguez taking over the bot lane.
According to former TSM AD Carry Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, he found out that he had been discarded from the team via Reddit.
The former TSM players were fortunate enough to have the reputation to attract other teams that were happy to pay for their contracts. However, not every player will have this luck.
NA is not a region that exports players. On the contrary, it is a region where LPL, LMS and LCK players go to be dominant.
In 2017 the average annual salary of a NA LCS players was $150,000. Nowadays that number has increased to $327,000. These salaries will attract top players from other regions.
Owners are already turning their attention to the LCK. Korean players are considered the be the best in the world and the salaries in that region are not as competitive, so it won’t take much convincing.
Expect more teams to acquire Korean players in the coming splits. The rules limit the the number of imports each team has, but after three years in the same region they no longer qualify as a foreign player.
If the other regions don’t adopt this model and start offering competitive salaries to their players, more and more will turn to the NA LCS.
Quality over quantity
Can one player really increase the level of an entire team? It seems so.
Echo Fox have dominated the Spring Split and the fans believe that Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon is responsible. The top laner went to Worlds with SK Telecom T1, considered to be the best team in the world, before returning to the NA LCS ahead of the 2018 season.
This shows that attracting key players could have a drastic effect on the overall quality of a team.
However, while the domestic competition will get better as a result, this is no guarantee that teams will perform well on the international stage. This pattern shows over and over with teams like TSM who have multiple domestic titles but struggle to get out of the groups at the World Championship.
Instead of buying more players, the owners should use the resources to improve the overall quality of North America as a region.
A promising future
The TSM case proved something — North American players don’t like to be replaced by newcomers.
Doublelift is currently playing with Team Liquid, one of the favourites to make the playoffs. Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen is the jungles for Cloud9 and he has never looked better on the rift. Vincent “Biofrost” Wang took on the role of shot-caller at the beloved Counter Logic Gaming, and, despite their struggles, the team is performing well.
Bringing in players from Europe or Korea will light a fire in the hearts of the American players. The result? More competition and a better region as a result. No matter how, it seems guaranteed that the NA LCS will improve as a result.