Will we get more LoL esports events in the UK? What about up North? We ask Riot Games in the MSI 2023 Riot press conference

MSI 2023 Riot Games Press Conference

Esports News UK MSI 2023 Coverage Powered by SideQuest Gamers Hub

The grand final of MSI is underway in London today as JDG battle BLG, but what does Riot Games think about how the event? And how long will it be until we get another League of Legends esports event in the UK? We ask Riot Games in the MSI 2023 Riot press conference.

When asked by Esports News UK what Riot thinks of MSI being held in London, and if we may get more LoL events in the UK, Riot Games President of Esports, John Needham, replied: “I used to live outside of London for two years, and it’s been awesome to be back. This is the first time I’ve been here since the pandemic.

“Yesterday, what really struck me about the match [BLG vs T1 at MSI 2023] is you forget how international London is, and it was really amazing seeing how many LPL and LCK fans were sitting in the audience and were very passionate about the match yesterday. So I love that about this city – it’s the most diverse international city. And it’s just been really awesome seeing everybody so excited about having the competition here. 

“We’re also proud [of the stage setup at the Copperbox Arena]!”

‘Seeing the fans supporting different regions here, we love that. We actually look for that when we choose our host regions and host cities – where can we go that’s going to be international? We want to of course bring the best of League of Legends to all the local fans here. So you can definitely expect us to come back [to the UK].’

Naz Aletaha, Riot Games

Naz Aletaha, Global Head of League of Legends Esports, added in the MSI 2023 Riot press conference: “I think during the earlier stages, from the play-ins to now, seeing the fans here supporting Brazilian teams, LATAM teams, obviously EMEA teams, LPL, LCK, we love that. And we actually look for that when we choose our host regions and host cities – where can we go that’s going to be international?

“We want fans to be able to travel in, if they can, and we want to of course bring the best of League of Legends to all the local fans here. And to answer your question, you can definitely expect us to come back.”

Maximilian Schmidt, Director of League of Legends Esports for EMEA, commented: “We’ve announced that we’re bringing the EMEA Masters on the road together with the LEC Roadshow, so I definitely expect there will be more opportunities across the entirety of EMEA down the line, and I think London has made a strong case for itself.”

GGBET MPU blast gif - June July 2024

There are a lot of Northern fans in the UK that have travelled down to London for MSI, and several have said they would love more esports events further North in the UK.

When Esports News UK asked Riot what they would say to those people, John Needham responded: “I’d say… noted!” (room laughs)

Fans have been ‘next level’ at MSI 2023 London – Riot Games

After the MSI 2023 Riot press conference, Riot also spoke with Laure on stage ahead of the MSI opening ceremony, which saw rapper Che Lingo perform the MSI song, ‘Rules (Are Meant To Break)’.

Naz Aletaha said: “Our partners, the City of London has just been incredible. I think the crowd, the fans here have just been next level. We’ve seen fans show up for CBLOL, NA, EU, LCK, LPL… it’s truly been amazing being here in London.

“The fans blow us away, every single time. They never disappoint, they have brought so much energy and hype to every single match. I mean, it has been loud in here for the last couple of days especially, and I’m sure today will be the best yet!” 

John Needham continied: “I used to live in London for two years, and I haven’t been back until this tournament, so it’s awesome to be back. I love this city – you forget how international this city us. Yesterday at the match, I was just really struck by the fans going crazy, there were tons of LCK and LPL fans, it’s awesome.”

Naz Aletaha also said on the MSI 2023 format: “We’re thrilled with the overall format, we wanted to make MSI more competitive, we wanted to bring more series play to the event and we wanted to make sure every match was going to count, and I think this MSI has definitely done that. I think we’ve had some incredible series between the best teams in the world, and I think today’s gonna be one of those.

John Needham added: “The fans seem super happy, viewership is up, so I’m very happy with the format.”

Naz continued: “We talk about Defy overall. Defy expectations, defy limits. BLG’s run has just been absolutely incredible. To be fifth in the regular season and fight their way to the top of the LPL coming here as second seed and fighting their way to the stage today, it’s been an incredible story to follow.”

On the opening ceremony, Naz described it as “the ultimate expression of the event, you can expect us to really bring together the sport, the players, Inkshadow, the anthem, to really hype everyone who’s watching and to really honour the moment”.

What else was said at the MSI 2023 Riot press conference?

A host of questions were asked by various members of the press at the MSI 2023 Riot press conference, from Riot’s plans for different regions, different titles like Project L and more.

On ERLs

Naz Aletaha, Global Head of League of Legends Esports: “We’re interested in expanding the path to pro further. When we see the mobility of players, start in a lower tier and make their way to the top tier on the international stage, we want to provide more for that. The ERL system is a shining example of that. You see semi pro players graduate up to the LEC or other leagues around the world into the international leagues.”

Maximilian Schmidt, Director of League of Legends Esports for EMEA, to Sam from GameReactor, on the NLC: “We are focused on sustainability and that also applies to the NLC. We took the step last year of shifting NLC from accredited status which has a lot of requirements, and a lot of things the tournament operator has to do in order to maintain it, to non-accredited status. This was done to ensure the sustainability and longevity of the league, because we care about the market and want to make ensure we have a pathway for the players in the region. It’s critical that the players understand they have a pathway via the EMEA Masters to become LEC stars in the future.”

Competitive intentions for Project L

John Needham, Riot Games President of Esports: “It’s obviously a different style game to Valorant and League of Legends, and I think that community has a really robust grassroots competitive scene with EVO and other tournaments like that. As we look to Project L and its development, and it’s coming along great, we want to lean in to see what the community wants to see for their esport. So we will be doing a lot of research and community research on how we bring Project L to life for the FGC community.

“So you won’t necessarily see an esport like League of Legends or Valorant, because I think the needs of that community are different than the needs of those two games. We try to build an esport custom for the communities and based on what they expect from that experience. We are very excited about Project L, it’s going to be awesome.”

The tier two in NA

Naz: “We really want to rethink the tier two system, not only in NA but in the Americas, can and should look like, drawing inspiration from what’s worked really well in EU. You’ve seen that evolution in NA kind of take place over the last couple of years, where once upon a time it was 10 academy teams playing each other expanded to the NA CL, and we see the potential to expand it further to provide more competitive opportunity for players at that level.

“Whether LCS teams participate or not, we’re gonna stay committed to that system and build it our further. The NA team will have more to share on what that will look like for the summer split in the next week or so.”

John: “We are absolutely committed to tier two, and we want to invest more in that layer, but at the same time we’re in challenging economic times right now – capital for the teams is limited in a lot of cases. And we want teams to invest in the parts of our ecosystem where they get value. If they don’t see value in having a team competing in the NA CL, we don’t feel we should be band-aiding that, and it’s pretty expensive.”

On the LCS path to pro and role of the collegiate level

Naz, to Aaron Down from the Loadout: “I think collegiate is really exciting. It’s also part of the ecosystem we’re looking at right now. How do we better connect it in? I think that’s a real opportunity space that’s been a little bit overlooked in terms of how we create that fuller, clearer path to pro. In NA how can we bring collegiate into that tier two/three space so it can feel like a more cohesive system. So, there’s more to come, and we’ve got our sights set on collegiate too.”

“Collegiate esports is part of the ecosystem we’re looking at right now. How do we better connect in it? I think that’s a real opportunity space that’s been a little bit overlooked in terms of how we create that fuller, clearer path to pro.”

Naz Aletaha, Riot Games

How NA differs from the other regions

Naz: “I think each of our regional leagues has done an incredible job of establishing the unique voice, perspective and brand that suits their audience. We rely on our regional leagues to really be the ear on the ground and advise on what their audience wants. And I think you see different styles being deployed. The LCK broadcast looks very different from the LEC broadcast.

“In North America we went from a broadcast steeped in American sports culture, almost an ESPN set, and they really done a 180 where it’s built around being more entertaining, fun and lighthearted, and I think the audience feels that. The talent and pros are having fun with it, and we want to do more of that. We’re listening to our audience constantly and working with our regions to figure out the best type of shows and content for our audiences.”

On a potential Game Changers for League of Legends

valorant game changers wome

Naz: “I’m such a fan of Game Changers and we’re really inspired by what Valorant Game Changers has done. And you’ll see many of our leagues around the world are doing versions within their region of Game Changers, so we’ll be looking at future seasons at how we bring this together to create something a bit more cohesive at the global level. We’ve seen regions like Brazil, NA, EU, do various activities at the regional level.”

Max: “We’ve worked with Women in Games in the past to have an event focused on the audience and player base. Moving forward we’ll be working with our teams to understand how we can cooperate with them. What we’ve seen in the past is working with the teams as partners on something we can get behind is incredibly powerful and we want to continue with that.”

On the upcoming Worlds virtual pass

John: “We want to deliver something that enhances the experience of watching Worlds for our fans, gives them an opportunity to express their fandom through physical items or digital items online. The tricky thing is, doing this for the first time, we always want to deliver value to our fans, we want to sell them products and digital services and products that are really great, exciting and premium and that fans are proud to own.

“So that’ll be the challenge this year. It’s very much a test this year, we’ll have a limited quantity of them that we sell, because we want to understand what’s valuable, what’s actually good and enhances the experience.

“We’ll have a collection of physical items you can only get in the pass, a Worlds pass, a Worlds skin, a variant of the Worlds skin you can only get with this pass, and then we’ll have a selection of promotions and items from our partners as well, and put it together in this really nice box. I hope we have a lot of fans doing unboxings and celebrating the start of Worlds.”

John Needham, Riot Games

“This year is very much a test, we’ll see what we learn and expand on it for next year. We’re excited about it, it’s one of the ways I think we can differentiate esports and our esports experience compared to traditional sports. I think you’ll be impressed.”

Integrating the Middle East into European League

MSI 2023 teams - Mad Lions

Max: “When we moved from the LEC to the LEC, we want to strike the right balance, between ensuring the European audience still identifies with the LEC as their league, while ensuring the adopted regions now also part of our overarching ecosystem, also feel like they’re there. The two major steps we’ve taken is including the TCL from Turkey into the EMEA Masters, so they have a spot there, they managed to win in their first participation ever. And then for MENA and the Arabian Cup/League, that had an impressive first showing in the EMEA Masters. We want to build on that to ensure the fans in the region identify with the ERL and ecosystem and the LEC as a whole.”

Naz: “We’re really pleased with co-streaming. We were excited to introduce it at MSI 2023, we tested it last year at Worlds. At the World Final we had a team of co-streamers on site, and expanded that. We’ve had 50 co-streamers over the course of MSI in 18 different languages. 

“You can just imagine how accessible that makes the content to so many more people. We want this content to reach our audience in the ways they want, and co-streaming is a really effective way of doing that, so you can expect more of that in the future.”

Predictions for the MSI 2023 grand final

Max: I love the underdog, so BLG 3-2.

Naz: Bin seems like the profit, so BLG 3-2.

John: JDG to win 3-1!

We’ll be back with more MSI content powered by SideQuest Gamers Hub later today – and after the event!

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