LoL: Disappointing LEC Numbers Are A Worrying Sign For Western LoL Esports Scene

The LEC year-in-review is shocking! After the League of Legends EMEA Championship received a new format to cut down the number of pointless games, the LEC officials were hopeful to see more traction. However, the LEC made a huge step back instead.

LEC Grand Finals 2023 by Kirill Bashkirov
LoL esports: The LEC Season Finals did not receive the expected attention. | © Riot Games

Usually, the end of a split generates a lot of hype and a huge peak in viewership numbers for any League of Legends region. This has also held true for the League of Legends EMEA Championship in previous years, with the grand finals more often than not surpassing the 300,000 viewer threshold on Twitch alone.

Partially thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the LEC managed to break its very own viewership records in the 2020 season. The grand finals of the summer playoffs between Fnatic and G2 Esports saw a peak of 388,794 viewers. Amazingly enough, the upper bracket final between those two teams a week earlier was only about 10,000 viewers short of this massive milestone!

After the restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic were finally lifted, the viewership numbers for the LEC slightly dropped. The return to life-as-usual did not stop viewers around the world from tuning in to the 2022 playoff finals though, as both spring and summer finals saw a peak of over 339,000 viewers. In 2023, however, the LEC greatly struggled to replicate these numbers.

LEC Season Finals 2023: Disappointing Peak Might Precede Difficult Future For The LEC

LEC Grand Finals Crowdshot by Michal Konkol
The Arena du Sud in Montpellier was full of enthusiastic fans, but the audience from home was not as motivated to tune in. | © Riot Games/Michal Konkol

The peak of the 2023 LEC season was only at 211,881 viewers – and shockingly, that was at the grand finale of the Winter Playoffs between G2 Esports and the MAD Lions. The Season Finals, on the other hand, followed in the footsteps of an abysmal summer that did not even surpass 125,000 viewers at any point in the split. While the grand finals between G2 and Fnatic did set a season finals record at 196,944 viewers, it remained far below expectations.

There are many possible explanations for this blatant fall. The LEC introduced a new format ahead of the 2023 season, with the winter split joining spring and summer to make three splits per season. After the summer split concludes, the six best teams in championship points qualify for the season finals, which are played almost identically to the 2022 playoffs system.

This change also means the LEC featured four finals instead of two and overthrew the previous qualification systems for the Mid-Season Invitational and the World Championship. This let to some confusion for many fans, and the summer playoffs suffered the most with a spectacular drop in viewership numbers.

Additionally, the LEC also changed broadcast days. Instead of playing on Friday and Saturday (and Sunday in super weeks), all matches until the playoffs would now be played on Saturday, Sunday and Monday, with the latter turning out especially tedious as a workday.

League of Legends In 2023: Is There A General Lack Of Hype In The Western World?

The change of calendar also came to the LCS, where the viewership numbers dropped even more drastically. The viewership peak in North America was at a mere 130,120 in the spring finals. They have changed broadcast days to Thursday and Friday ahead of the 2023 season, with Wednesday coming in as the third day for super weeks.

The lack of hype was not only felt in the esports scene: a lack of a cinematic ahead of the 2023 ranked season left many League of Legends players asking for more. While the opening ceremony in Montpellier was amazing to watch, it also failed to bring something new to the table. The theme song was once again Awaken, which first featured as the season opener for the 2019 season. That was almost five years ago!

League of Legends in its entirety seems to be lacking a sense of innovation, which is felt most strongly in the western regions. With the 2022 season seeing the Worlds finals viewership record broken at a staggering 988,374 concurrent Twitch viewers, it is clear that the attention for the esports scene was the strongest it ever was.

However, a painful 2023 season gives reasons to doubt this peak will be replicated. Riot Games will have to deliver an epic 2023 Worlds anthem and a proper show alongside the new tournament format.

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