It was the interwebs version of meeting by the oak tree after school.
Mike “Wickd” Peterson, a LoL pro who plays for the team Evil Geniuses, and Fnatic’s Paul “SOAZ” Boyer were both neck-and-neck with hours to go in public voting for the final European spot in the League Championship series All-Star Game. Each held 33 percent of the vote, creating an equal split between the two and a standstill in who will be the final European player.
Harnessing his inner Beyond Thunderdome, Peterson suggested a one-on-one duel to determine the starting Top Lane spot and forgo any “hanging chad” controversy.
Two men enter, one man leaves. This undeniably epic way to settle the issue created huge waves and spread like wildfire throughout social media, and within minutes, thousands were ready to watch it all go down.
Right before the start of the melee, over 100,000 viewers were tuned into Petersen’s personal stream, ready to watch a LoL brawl of the highest order.
Although Petersen won the stream battle (that sounded weird) Boyer prevailed as the victor, with a skin-of-the-teeth 3-2 win, thus taking the final European All-Star spot. All said and done, the Twitch.tv stream hit 137, 769 concurrent peak viewers. Needless to say, these are massive numbers for a spur of the moment deathmatch. But considering the immense popularity of the game, this seems to be the natural progression for a title that is experiencing exponential growth.
Although this duel was a special situation, League of Legends was already getting six-figure numbers for their weekly League Championship Series, including over 1 million viewers for the Season 2 Championship Finals. Further evidence of this popularity shift to LoL from traditional eSports titans like Starcraft can be summed by the less-than-exact, but critical text and pic sent by a good friend of mine who went to the MLG Winter Championships in Dallas on March 15th:
“LoL at MLG Dallas is about 50% bigger and 3x louder than the SC2 crowd. It’s pretty amazing.”
Is this empirical evidence proving LoL’s dominance in the multiplayer space? Definitely not. But it serves as a reminder that we are seeing an impressive shift in interest from the traditional powers, towards what some would say the most “viewable” multiplayer game around. This key term is what will make eSports a legitimate spectator sport. StarCraft tends to be sensory overload with too many units and too much going on around the map for casual viewers to immediately take to the game, whereas LoL is much more straightforward and accessible for those watching. The colorful aesthetic and art-style is easy on the eyes and pleasing to viewers.
Plus, with the expansive selection of Champions, each containing their own lore and attributes, the potential for an immersive viewing experience is right in front of us. Just like in our favorite mainstream sports, we like to follow our own heroes and are excited to see them enter the “field of battle.” So it would only seem natural that people would gravitate towards particular Champions, and in doing so creating a personal connection with the game beyond that of a casual viewer. The only difference is that Champions don’t disappoint their fans by getting arrested for domestic assault! (unless that’s in the lore, of course…)
All in all, the Riot Games developed League of Legends offers so much when it comes to a spectator eSport, and its unparalleled growth (along with examples like Wickd’s personal feed) proves that the title is here to stay and will only be getting bigger.
What are your thoughts on League of Legends as a spectator sports? Do you think it will be the first game to break into the mainstream? Let us know!