League of Legends' VP of eSports sees similarities with the LCS and pro football.
It’s good to be Dustin Beck right now. The VP of eSports at Riot Games is presiding over a League of Legends Season 3 playoff starting this weekend that is legitimately putting the world in its World Championship. Its player base comes from 145 different countries and pro teams from places not considered competitive gaming hotbeds -- Turkey, Russia, Oceania – and next month’s Grand Finals at the Staples Center in Los Angeles sold out in minutes and is expected to be viewed by millions online. Red Bull eSports sat down with Beck to get a small state of the League of Legends union.
Red Bull eSports: How do you think Season 3 has gone so far?
We're pretty excited with the way things unfolded for Season 3. There's obviously a lot more that we want to do, but I think setting up a legitimate sports league in our first go around dedicated to eSports and producing and running our own league -- we've been super fired up about our beta version of the LCS.
How have players and fans responded to the way the LCS has been structured?
I think they've responded well. We continue to see really great and strong viewership which has increased week over week and the split over split differences is a lot bigger as well. It's a testament to the consistency of the people tuning into to the broadcast -- you're starting to see the same phenomena as you would Sunday NFL football, right? You know like, hey, it’s Sunday, I'm going to be watching football.
I think people are starting to be like, hey, Thursday is my LCS day, I get together with my friends and I'm watching it. So I think the consistency of the league has helped people plan around viewing the LCS and then I think the players are fired up. They get to see high quality matches of their favorite teams and individual pro players and then they get to go replicate those strategies in the game itself so.
You’ve acknowledged recently that Riot isn't necessarily making money off of League of Legends eSports right now.
We make eSports because they're fun and engaging experience for all of our players. It's a great way to experience the game outside of the game itself and you get to see it performed on its best level. If you're a basketball fan and you go watch a Lakers vs. Heat game, you want to go shoot the basketball around right after that.
And I think eSports has a similar phenomenon now. I hope the LCS can be profitable in the next couple years – there are a lot of traditional blue chip sponsors who are taking notice and starting to get involved. That's not our motivation though for getting involved with eSports -- our motivation is to delivering this high quality experience for our players to enjoy.
League of Legends keeps introducing brand new characters into the game, how tough is it from an eSports perspective to keep balance in the game?
I think it’s fun for the pros to continually have new challenges, but introducing new champions is obviously tough for them. You've got over 115 champions I think they need to master and even if they don't play them, they need to know what those champions do. Who knows how we treat that going forward with the champion pool increasing over the years because that's a lot of champs to master. For right now, it keeps the game ever evolving and it continually keeps the meta changing. It never gets stale.
Do you think you’ll eventually have to cap the number of champions or remove some of them who don't really work?
When champions become overpowered or underpowered, every couple of weeks we release a new patch and that helps balance those champions that might be overplayed or underplayed. We do a lot of champion reworks now -- enhanced a lot of champion's features or just redone them. Who knows what will happen in 2015, for example, when that champion pool becomes bigger - we may have a "Championship Circuit" or "Approved Champion List" but that's not a bridge we've crossed yet.
Do you have changes in store for Season 4?
I think that there's some kind of content things we want to focus on. Internationally, if there's stuff going on in Korea, there's people having to staying up till 4 a.m. to watch the Champions League and we want to do a better job of making the visibility around that a lot better for fans to get access to. All of the core tenets of the LCS, we haven't had a chance to take a step back and look at what went well and what didn't go well. We're going to spend the offseason revisiting our LCS structure and everything will be on the table as far as what to alter or change.
Is there a specific thing that you seem to hear from pro players about things they'd like to see?
There are no consistent themes of what we're lacking. If anything they just want more. We're always in touch with our players, one cool thing we've been able to do is consistently evolve week-to-week. New features come out like the POV cams and team audio on the replays or the picture-in-picture screen so you can still see live play while the action is going on. We've done a pretty solid job of listening to fans midseason and altering our broadcasts. If you look at our broadcasts now compared to like first couple weeks of spring compared to now, everything has evolved rapidly.
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