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In November 2016, several team owners in the North American professional League of Legends league drafted a joint letter for the game developers, Riot Games, regarding their concerns with the financial stability of the NA LCS moving forward.
Riot has since worked towards overhauling the entire infrastructure of the NA LCS to address the concerns of their partners, but doing so has, completely left several teams and the EU LCS in the dust.
Changes to the NA LCS
Riot sought out to address the biggest concern that was voiced out by several team owners, particularly concerning the relegation system. The old relegation system meant that teams could fall out of the league very easily if they finished in the bottom two of any split. Teams in relegation will have to fight against the top teams in the Challenger league in order to compete for a spot at the NA LCS.
For example, if Team Liquid and Counter Logic Gaming finish a split at the bottom two spots, they would have to go into a four-team bracket to fight for their spots. If the top two teams from the Challenger league manage to win over TL and CLG in this scenario, they will be taking their place in the following NA LCS split.
This naturally volatile team retention system made it difficult for team owners to attract long term investors since the return on investment was threatened by the looming possibility of relegation. Big name investors wouldn't want to invest in a team that could be removed from the main league in a matter of months.
The relegation system also affected team-fan relationships as teams drop out from the NA LCS, their fans are left with fewer options to watch them compete at the top level of the game.
The New Franchise System
Riot Games announced in 2017 that the NA LCS would adopt a new franchise system starting from the 2018 Spring Split. Teams no longer had to worry about the threat of being removed from the LCS.
The franchise system allows all NA LCS teams to be permanent partners of the league. A spot in the updated league reportedly cost each team USD 10,000,000, with half of the total amount paid up front.
The new system saw interested investors and long-time NA LCS teams bidding for spots in the LCS with the final decision resting solely on the shoulders of Riot Games. Teams such as Immortals and Team Dignitas were part of the unfortunate squads that did not make it into the new NA LCS.
The loss of some great teams to the NA LCS has opened up slots for some big investors to try their hand at esports. The NA LCS primarily attracted several big organizations from the National Basketball Association as the new league was being developed.
NBA Organizations Enter NA LCS
Riot Games succeeded in attracting some big name organizations from the NBAA. The Golden State Warriors, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Houston Rockets succeeded in securing their own slots for the 2018 NA LCS tournament.
RELATED: GSW, CAV, HOU Invest in NA LCS
Investors weren't the only ones that were attracted to the refurbished NA LCS infrastructure. Players from the neighboring EU LCS chose to play for several NA teams at the tail end of the 2017 season.
EU Left in the Dust
EU LCS teams were already aware of the coming changes to the NA LCS and were pressuring Riot Games to make similar changes to their league. The EU LCS still retains the old relegation system across their LCS and Challenger leagues.
The unfavorable conditions in the EU LCS could be pointed as a key reason as to why players from the EU region migrated to the NA LCS in order to fill in team openings. H2k-Gaming's former Mid-laner Febiven will be playing for Clutch Gaming. Misfit's mid, PowerOfEvil, who found success in the 2017 world championship, will be playing for the new OpTic Gaming squad. Team SoloMid managed to secure the signature bot lane duo from G2 Esports, Zven and Mithy.
There is still no update from Riot Games on plans to make the same changes to the EU LCS. Teams and players in the EU region will have to survive through the old system until such time that Riot decides to convert the EU LCS into a franchise system. But how long will it take for Riot to equalize the systems across their LCS leagues before more players from the EU decide to try out their favorable prospects in the NA LCS?
What about PH LoL?
The Philippine LoL scene currently operates under the relegation system. If the new NA LCS system proves to be successful, it could serve as a pretense of improving the local League scene with the help of all the local teams. Are you ready for your favorite PBA teams to have their own esports organizations?