I was at a Magic: The Gathering (coming soon to a column near you) event this past weekend, which meant that, coupled with the unfortunate time zone difference, I didn’t get to watch a minute of All-Stars live.
Which is a shame, because it’s one of the few ‘silly’ esports events I actually enjoy.
It also meant I missed a lot of Astralis’ Grand-Slam run through ESL Pro League finals. I did manage to catch the grand-final and it was nice to see Liquid put up more of a fight than last time the two teams met, but nobody can touch the Danes right now.
Indeed, it’s becoming harder and harder to write about Counter-Strike in an interesting way when the same team wins everything.
I did go back and skim through some of the All-Stars matches, though, and I read through some of the community response so we’ll go down that route instead. One thing in particular caught my eye after the whole thing was said and done.
No, not Pabu’s surprising showing in the 1v1 tournament, impressive thought it was. No, not the internal conflict Sneaky’s Xayah cosplay started.
What really surprised me was the fact that viewership for this All Stars event was the highest ever, by quite a margin. Picksnadbans.net reported a 37 per cent increase over the same event last year.
To be clear, I don’t put a ton of stock in viewing figures. I’m of the opinion that it’s better to do something good than to do something popular.
As someone who may or may not be good, but who certainly isn’t popular, I guess I would have to think that. Whatever the reason, I find the obsession with viewing figures that plagues esports a little distasteful.
It’s as if we need the validation of more and more people so we can dismiss the inherent notion that we’re all wasting our time on children’s video games.
Nevertheless, when the jump in viewership is so high, it behoves a journalist to take notice.
Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy All-Stars for its light-hearted tone and its way-more-entertaining-than-it-should-be 1v1 tournament.
I, like many others, still eagerly await the inclusion of a proper 1v1 mode in the game client, which was promised years ago.
Similarly, the NA-EU games are always worth a watch, even if the players don’t exactly take them too seriously.
The other stuff I can do without, though. Tandem is just normal League of Legends but worse. Watch your favourite players (and streamers) play at 50 per cent of their usual level in an otherwise standard game of League of Legends. Meh.
Nexus Blitz seems to be immensely popular so I’ll give that one a pass. It’s not really my cup of tea, but that’s fine.
The elephant in the room, though, is the inclusion of popular streamers from each region. I alluded to them a moment ago and it’s likely that at least some of that surprisingly large increase in viewership can be attributed to the likes of QTPie and Grpiex.
I’m not a huge fan of the gimmicky inclusion of a bunch of streamers but, evidently, I cannot deny that it worked.
Historically, I think RIOT has done a good job of knowing when it’s okay to dilute the seriousness of competitive League with this kind of thing.
There was some negative feedback around the announcement of the inclusion of streamers, and I must admit I was a sceptic, but the way it was done worked out just fine. It matched the light-hearted tone of the event without turning it into a joke.
In hindsight, I don’t see a problem as long as RIOT continues to use them sparingly at All-Stars-like events.
I can envision a nightmarish future where every pro team has to designate a starting slot to a popular streamer but I don’t really expect anything like that to happen.
I mean, where might that lead? Arbitrarily region-named teams filled with players who have never set foot in that part of the world?
More eyes on league esports can never be a bad thing, and if they did come for the celebrities, maybe they will stay for the real deal.
Having said that, it’s not as if there was ever any danger of All-Stars outshining Worlds, which brings me to another possibility for the huge increase in viewership.
In a year where China won everything there was to win, is it any surprise that Chinese viewers watched in droves? They probably can’t get enough of League of Legends right now, and the LPL-LCK show-match win will only have added to that.
In the end, All-Stars was a fine example of how to run a casual esports event without having the whole thing devolve into a bunch of in-jokes and while maintaining some semblance of serious competition. Now can we please get 1v1 mode in the regular client?