With the anguish of Cloud9’s disappointing exit from the 2021 Mid-Season Invitational fully dissipated, North America’s attention gravitates back to the LCS Summer Split. Set to begin on June 4 at 3 p.m. PT/10 p.m. GMT, Team Liquid and Team SoloMid will headline the occasion by crossing paths for the first time since the Mid-Season Showdown lower bracket finals as their first hurdle in the road towards the World Championship.
Though most fans have been aware of the league’s schedule for the second half of 2021, with the teams fielding new lineups relative to last spring, some don’t know of the changes that will occur behind the scenes.
The highly-awaited return to the LCS main studio and the subsequent easing of restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, the newest regulation on the usage of LoL Esports media for news publications, the return of ProView spectating during live games, the creation of new segments for broadcasts, a Watch Party program designated for streamers that offer an alternative perspective for a portion of the audience that doesn’t fancy the official broadcast, and many more. In layman’s terms, this summer will be chock full of new things made by the LCS.
On June 1, with three days left until the start of the summer split, Riot Games executives held a media day conference with journalists to discuss everything mentioned above and then some which will be featured in the upcoming season.
Here are the highlights of the press conference.
Return of ProView
As explained by Chris Greeley, Riot’s Head of Esports for North America and Oceania, ProView will return for the LCS audience starting this summer after an indefinite hiatus which will feature two versions: free and premium.
“We spent the entire COVID downtime rebuilding the platform from the ground up and we’ll be offering free and premium versions of the product going forward,” said Greeley.
Found in the LoL Esports website, the free version for all spectators will include a handpicked selection of two-player POV streams, an autocomplete search engine that allows them to discover content by the team, player name, or champion used, an enhanced timeline of highlights of a game with instant replays corresponding each occasion, and real-time statistics alongside hints for beginning viewers.
For the premium version, which can be paid for $6.99 USD per month, fans will possess every feature of the free version in addition to gaining access to all 10 player streams in each game, its map stream, and an array of exclusive content such as the full team comms, player portraits, and more.
Watch Party Program
Co-streaming has definitely laid its mark on the LCS viewership in recent years. Whereas the LCS consistently raked in tens of thousands of viewers for their weekly games, a sizable chunk of the total audience opted for co-streams, in which designated partners, former players, and prominent personalities add their commentary to official broadcasts for a different view on the actual game.
Though the LCS instituted a Co-streaming Policy prior to the spring split, for the summer, they will replace it with the Watch Party Program, a new concept derived by the league that takes, as said by Greeley, “popular streamers and content creators and brings them together with [their] competitive content.”
The program’s inaugural lineup will include Nick “LS” De Cesare, Yiliang “Doublelift” Peng, Zachary “Sneaky” Scuderi, William “Meteos” Hartman, Christian “IWDominate” Rivera, and Hammoudi “Yassuo” Abdalrhman. In addition to the program, FlyQuest will continue to do their Spanish language stream for Spanish viewers that began in spring.
From Dave Stewart, Riot’s Executive Producer and Director of Esports Content in NA, the LCS decided to make an assortment of changes to their opening segment of its broadcasts.
Starting off, Countdown, which featured host James “Dash” Patterson talking to three analysts about a given day’s upcoming set of games, will be replaced to create three new shows that are set to air at the same slot.
On Friday, Raz will be the live host of “Lane x Lane”, a 30-minute interactive show where he acts as the mediator for contestants that argue about topics that hover around the game and whose explanations are rewarded by the Twitch chat through their voting.
On Saturday, hosted by caster Julian “Pastrytime” Carr, “Replay Files” will be given the floor as the next tuneup for LCS games. The show will retrace Leagues’ illustrious history by reviewing classic games and interviewing the players, be it past or present, who took part. The pilot episode will talk about the Misfits Gaming vs SK Telecom T1 Worlds 2017 quarterfinal series by the help of Tristan “PowerOfEvil” Schrage, Lee “IgNar” Dong-geun, Barney “Alphari” Morris, and Heo “Huni” Seung-hoon.
Sunday will have “Next Level” hosted by Meteos. It is a reprisal of the 2019 roundtable discussion video where he, Doublelift, Aphromoo, and Goldenglue conversed with Dash about their trajectory in the League esports scene. For each week, Meteos will speak to different guests in a similar scene over, per Greeley, “a lot of things going on in the community that isn’t just going to recap who’s in the first place.”
For the pilot of Next Level, Meteos will have TL head coach Joshua “Jatt” Leesman, LCS analyst Emily Rand, Yassuo, and Counter Logic Gaming ADC Jason “WildTurtle” Tran as guests.
Digital Media Licensing
In addition to the sponsors the LCS will have for the summer split, the league will begin their partnership with ESPAT AI as their official digital media license partner. According to Matthew Archambault, Riot’s Head of Partnerships and Business Development in NA and Oceania, ESPAT will work with the LCS “to sell licenses for [designated] imagery, catering primarily to large-scale media companies, wire services, and commercial customers.”
“The goal of the partnership is to create opportunities for LCS photos to be licensed with major media companies on par or similar to traditional sports and also use ESPAT’s technology to explore potential applications of AI and/or image recognition,” said Archambault.
Questions have circulated regarding the steep cost of each ESPAT-designated image that publications must cough up in order to create appropriate content and how it will impact their ability, and most importantly small-level creator’s own as well, to sustain themselves in the long run.
But as Archambault explained, the partnership serves as a springboard for “greater opportunities” for such parties in question and cited ESPAT’s flexibility in managing multiple varieties such as price management and working with the creators in direct contact.
“It’s not meant to be exclusive. It’s not meant to prohibit or derail anybody continuing to grow and evolve…It’s something that will allow us to work with all of you in a much more levelled up experience,” said Archambault.
Additionally, Archambault stressed that the LCS and ESPAT will find a way to accommodate the concerned parties for using their future photos. As part of the transition period in the leadup to the start of the ESPAT partnership, the league will allow current pressroom members to have 100% access to all photos for their respective platforms between now and the end of 2022 Lock-In tournament.
No Import Rule Changes
Perhaps the biggest issue concerning the LCS heading into the summer split was the possible removal of the import rule which instructed teams to field a majority of residents for their lineup in games.
But as a result of NA’s representatives faltering in a string of international tournaments, add to that with the existence of rumours of the league’s owners discussing to remove it entirely for a supposed edge, domestic fans wondered if their scene’s identity would disappear by the ensuing inundation of imports.
To quell those lingering doubts, Greeley said the LCS remained committed to developing and growing the region’s grassroots communities so that it could then spawn the next crop of talented players for the future, giving the notion that the import rule was not in their nearest plans.
LCS x BMG
Riot has always delivered when it comes to their music. They’ve gone as far as to create customized playlists depending on your playstyle. LCS will finally match something the LEC has always had for quite a while now. With a BMG x LCS partnership, maybe we’ll get more songs worth looking for in LCS content.
“At the LCS, and Riot overall, we’ve always appreciated the strong connection between gaming and music. Through our partnership with BMG, we’re excited to deepen that bond, and find creative ways to integrate their artists; music into the LCS broadcast experience, starting with our Summer Kickoff film ‘Ruled by One.’ We can’t wait to unveil the other performances and content we have planned for this summer, and beyond.”
Matt Archambault, Head of Esports Partnerships for NA & OCE