Opinion: Why three is not the magic number for Riot’s ranked solo queue and LEC seasons

Jinx Vi Caitlyn

We should kill the three League of Legends seasons per year – in both esports AND ranked – argues Esports News UK editor Dom Sacco.

LEC needs fewer seasons per year

Three is the magic number, so they say. A triangle, regarded as the strongest shape, has three sides. And some good things come in threes, like the original Star Wars trilogy, the three muskateers, and Destiny’s Child.

But bad things happen in threes. And three’s a crowd – just look at Jinx, Vi and Caitlyn from Riot’s TV series Arcane above.

And, for me, Riot giving the League of Legends EMEA Championship (LEC) three seasons, instead of the usual two, was a mistake.

When Riot announced the LEC three season change some ten months ago, I was indifferent.

Three six-week splits – Winter, Spring and Summer – plus an LEC Season Finals. It sounded relatively simple enough, and not too much of a sweeping change.

But seeing it in practice hasn’t been great. And I’m not just talking about Excel and Fnatic’s disastrous start to the year in LEC’s first winter 2023 season.

G2 win LEC Summer 2023 Finals as German player BrokenBlade lifts the trophy
G2 were the leading team in the LEC in 2023

I could be overly critical here, but I wasn’t a fan of having the first season of the year labelled winter. As someone who is so used to having a spring and summer season each year in the LEC, and other tournaments, it was confusing – and maybe I just don’t like change!

Worse than that, for me, was how these three splits linked into the LEC Season Finals (recently won by G2). Having a regular season, then a group stage, then playoffs, for each season, and THEN a season finals on top of all that, felt overkill to me. The summer playoffs being so close to the Season Finals felt odd too. There’s too much.

It wasn’t just me that was unsure about this format – the LoL community got talking about it too.

Look, I understand that esports should evolve to stay fresh. Like the always-online games they’re focused on, change can be good. Metas shift, new champions and items are added, and fresh talking point emerge.

But three didn’t work for me, for the reasons outlined above.

I’d like to see the LEC return to two seasons per year, or dare I say it, adopt a football-style year-long season. A real test of endurance.

I get that esports isn’t football, and the demographics and formats and fandoms are different, but I personally would like to see longer seasons.

While we’re at it, let’s bring back promotions and relegations. When LoL franchising was first announced for the LCS six years ago, I wrote a piece about the NA LCS changes being bad for the future of competitive League of Legends – and I stand by my words now. I do see the benefits of franchising, but I sorely miss the chance for teams to break into leagues like this on merit. Renegades Banditos made it from the ESL UK Premiership into the Challenger Series and then the EU LCS, before being renamed to Misfits. We won’t have those stories in League again, unless something changes.

Anyway, I digress. Let’s move onto the next bit of triple trouble in League of Legends.

Why three ranked splits will kill my love of League of Legends

League of Legends graphic art

Another change Riot recently made is around the number of ranked splits in LoL, moving from two to three for 2024.

Last month, Riot announced that the current ranked split will be extended to January 3rd 2024, with split one starting January 9th, split two in May and split three in September. This meant there would be three four-month splits, and the current two-month pre-season in November would effectively be removed.

Riot said the change would be to ‘make ranked meaningful across the whole year, rather than players plateauing halfway through and either leaving ranked or switching to smurfs’.

“Having three ranked splits also gives us three points in the year where we can make bigger changes to core gameplay without disrupting in-progress climbs,” Riot added. “This change also starts everyone on the same page at the beginning of the year. And we think players will be excited to have the opportunity to earn three Victorious skins a year, one per split!”

Ah, skins. I personally don’t think this should be a reason to have three ranked splits, but dangle a carrot, whether it’s for prestige skins, new champions or other rewards, and players will chase it.

“A year ago, when they went from one season per year to two, I wasn’t a fan of this, as I had to effectively climb twice per year, instead of once. And now you’re telling me I have to do it three times? Nah, I’m out.”

As an older, lapsed League player than many, in my late thirties, with children and a lot on, I’m perhaps more time-strapped than others. I don’t have the time I’d like to commit to a proper ranked push each year, so I usually go up a bit then stop.

A year ago, when they went from one season per year to two, I wasn’t a fan of this, as I had to effectively climb twice per year, instead of once. And now you’re telling me I have to do it three times? Nah, I’m out.

I can’t be bothered with the repeated grinds anymore. Give me ARAMs, normals and a bunch of friends, and I’m set.

Again, a few others have a similar view on the three ranked splits – with UK streamer Huzzy making a good point that the three ranked splits per year may ‘devalue’ ranked and ‘drive people away’.

That’s yet to be seen, but I can’t help feeling I agree with Huzzy.

I’d rather we have a full year-long season in League, perhaps with a few checkpoints here and there that give you some rewards along the way, but no resets. Have bigger, better end-of-year rewards based on not only your rank, but other things like achievements, challenges, player behaviour and maybe top plays or S+ performances. Have champion-exclusive rewards for one-tricks and specific seasons.

It would, in my opinion, feel more rewarding this way – a longer road to traverse with twists and turns, not a journey that’s over in a few months.

Riot does make a good point that pre-season is currently too long, at two months, but why do we need three splits to reduce the duration of pre-season? Why not just cut pre-season down to a couple of weeks?

I will say, I am for Mythic items being removed. I wasn’t a fan of being shoehorned into choosing one of a few Mythic items for my main champions.

Lastly, take all this with a pinch of salt. The older I get, the less I like change, and there’s definitely an element of that here.

But I just feel like three is too many for League, in both esports and solo queue, and I’m not sure it’s a great move for the game.

Will three be the magic number for League in 2024? Or will it be three strikes for Riot and out?

Time will tell.

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