This past weekend, the League of Legends World Championship concluded. The hopes of all Western fans rested with European squad G2 Esports, while the Eastern fans backed Chinese squad FunPlus Phoenix. The odds were fairly even, but there was a lot of hype that G2 would win, bringing home the World Championship to a non Korean or Chinese team for the first time since season 2 when the Taipei Assassins took home the cup.
Did this happen?
Hell no. G2 got absolutely stomped, with FPX coming out on top in a dominating 3-0 fashion. Alas, the Western hopes were dashed for the 2nd year in a row. It seems like North America and Europe can’t catch a break, as it’s been 8 straight seasons without a Western victory in the World finals.
To be fair, FunPlus came into the tournament as a favorite to win the whole thing, so it isn’t really a huge surprise that they did just that. There is always next year! Which brings me to the point of this article.
I tweeted the other day about how absolutely butthurt traditional sports fans get when huge entities such as the NFL or NHL partner with esports teams, about how “iT’s NoT a ReAl SpOrT”. Yeah, sure dude, you’re totally right, esports is a joke, why don’t you go tell that to Huni who just resigned with Dignitas for a 2-year, $2.3 million extension to be their top laner. I’m sure he would HEARTILY agree with you.
Anywho, this year was an insane year for esports, and with the finals of the 2019 LoL World Championship in Paris, they sold out AccorHotels Arena. Completely sold it out. For those at home wondering, that arena has a capacity of 20,300. A video game sold out that arena. Ain’t that something else? Not to mention the opening ceremony featured a live, hologram-esque performance of an original song, created by Riot Games titled “GIANTS”, has already had over 8.7 million views on YouTube, with the actual opening ceremony at 1.8 million views. It featured Becky G, Keke Palmer, SOYEON, DUCKWRTH and Thutmose. Quite a star studded roster there.
The 2019 championship spanned 3 cities in Europe, with the group stage taking place in Berlin, the quarterfinals and semi-finals taking place in Madrid and the finals in Paris over a course of a month. The success of this years worlds has led Riot Games to announce that the 2020 World Championship will span 6 CITIES in China next year. S I X. That’s absolutely insane.
If you think 20,300 is bonkers, the 2017 finals sold out half the National Stadium in Beijing, with the other half being blocked out due to the stage configuartion: a capacity of 45,000. Let’s put this into perspective, and it’s not exactly a perfectly even comparison, but it’s championship to championship.
The Stanley Cup finals this year, sold out TD Garden, which is a capacity of 17,565 people. The LoL Worlds final sold of AccorHotels Arena, capacity of 20,300. A traditional sports final was outsold by an esports final (granted, as I said, not a perfect comparison as I’m sure if it was a bigger arena, TD Garden would still have been sold out, but you get my point). Esports has the ability to compete with viewership of traditional sports. I’m sure people will continue to try to knock it down a peg, but the facts speak for themselves, and Riot Games will blow the traditional sports records out of the water next year. There is not a doubt in my mind, being that the previous record for cities hosting games for a world championship was 4, so they already are breaking it.
The 2020 finals are going to be held in Shanghai Stadium, which seats more than 56,000. It’s expected to be sold out. The 2018 finals had 99.6 million viewers tuning in to it. Between the locations, the ceremonies, the month long tournament, Riot is mixing sports, music, celebration and numerous other things and creating a giant that dwarfs what traditional sports have. It makes the Super Bowl halftime celebration look like child’s play.
Esports is here and it’s here to say, I can’t reiterate myself enough. If you build it, they will come.
That’s exactly what Riot Games has done, welcome to the esports era, traditional sports fans.