Riot Games has announced big changes for the North American League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS) moving forward, and the biggest part of this is that they are now franchising the league.
"We believe that stability for teams and for pros will help create a league that rewards the highest level of play and is ultimately more entertaining for fans," they write. "To get there, we're going to make some central changes. Starting in 2018, teams that participate in the NA LCS will be there as permanent partners of the league. Teams will be selected from an application process (more details on that below) meaning they won't face relegation or have to fight for the right to compete as a new org via a promotion tournament. We see this as a positive step forward for the league for multiple reasons, but mainly because teams will no longer have to juggle uncertainty while planning for their future."
Riot then goes on to explain how teams can join the franchise, and they'll be partnering with third parties to ask teams questions regarding things like brand plans, owners, team strategies, and business plans. From there they will then review applications, they will then announce partners competing in the league. All of this should be finished by Q4 this year in preparing for 2018's NA LCS.
They also defend the decision to remove relegation, as it removes the risk that may prevent large investments being made. They also say that this shouldn't feel as if the stakes are lowered, as "we want to make sure they are still motivated to do their best year-in and year-out. To achieve this, we'll be creating financial incentives for each place in the league — the better you do, the bigger the rewards. We are also implementing a policy in which teams can lose their right to compete in the league if they finish in 9th or 10th place 5 times over an 8-split span."
The Challenger Series is also being "rebooted" as well, becoming an Academy League where NA LCS teams can field developmental players to build young talent, with more games being played in order to achieve this.
Another aspect of this change of plans is to share league revenue. "In a healthy, long-term league, money generated by the ecosystem should be shared by the people who contribute to it. We also believe that the league is healthiest when teams, players, and Riot are all motivated to create a thriving, entertaining league that's popular with fans. Entering into partnership allows us to create opportunities for teams and pros to share in the upside of the league. To achieve that, we will be sharing league-based revenues (like the media deal announced last year and team-branded digital goods). In the same vein, teams will be required to share a portion of their league-driven revenues as well (including things like sponsorships and merch sales). This aligns the interests of all parties (while still granting considerable opportunity for motivated owners and superstar players to earn outsized revenues), creating a strong and competitive ecosystem." More details on exactly how this works can be found on the announcement post.
Lastly, a Players' Association is also being set up, with players voting for independent representatives to give them a voice. The Association will in turn offer skills like skills training and financial planning to those who need it, with Riot funding the process, although they did add that "ot's our hope and expectation that as the association grows, the players assume full financial control over the organization — we believe this is the most effective way to give the process a kick start and provide them with an official voice."
A timeline was also included down below for these changes. Do you think all of these are good for the health of the NA LCS?