Riot Games' Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck recently spoke about the player base in League of Legends surpassing 100 million but in the same interview they also discussed esports and the game's rise in that field as well as the problems that have come with it.
They said that when League of Legends initially released, the esports scene wasn't anywhere near the level it was now and there were no plans for the game to move into that area. This all started changing when fans started organising tournaments and by the summer of 2010 it grew to a level that Riot Games had to acknowledge. In 2011 the Season One Championship was added to Dreamhack Summer, also including Counter-Strike and StarCraft 2.
Beck said that they didn't know what to expect, deciding to stream the games on a whim. "We ended up getting over 100,000 concurrent viewers, which just blew our minds. It was there we realised this was something League players loved and started to really take it seriously."
It was then that Riot wanted their own leagues, including weekly broadcasts and a yearlong schedule of events, although a big mistake in the early stages of this growth occurred in October 2012's Season Two World Championship. When the Chinese WE team were up against Counter Logic Gaming Europe, the internet connection went down and both teams were kicked from the match. "We didn't have a version of our entire servers that we could bring with us at the time back then," Beck explained. The nightmare continued when Riot Games had to send the audience home without finishing the series.
The lesson was learned though and the esports scene has grown with Riot's understanding of it, although new issues have emerged, such as when Merrill responded to Team Solo Mid owner Andy "Reginald" Dinh on Reddit after Dinh criticised Riot's esports structure. Dinh's criticisms were in response to a number of teams being banned from Riot's North American League Championship Series but Merrill took the offensive strategy, saying that Dinh wasn't paying his players enough.
Merrill said that the two "had a lot of discussions behind closed doors," however. "I spoke from a place of passion when I carried on a private conversation in a public forum. I often fail to appreciate how far League has come. We're at the helm of this massive thing, and there's so much attention and amplification being put onto it. I'm still getting used to it."
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