The global head of esports for League of Legends, Naz Aletaha, has today provided an update on the upcoming 2023 LCS Summer Season. The news follows reports that the LCS would be sticking to the league’s June 1 start date, despite a planned mass-walkout of North America’s brightest MOBA game stars in protest of changes to its Tier-2 league, the NA Challenger League.
In a new LoL Esports blog post, Aletaha begins by stressing that “the LCS has always been a flagship league for LoL Esports and we [Riot] care deeply about it.” While the region has historically struggled internationally, it’s clear that its full potential has yet to be unlocked. As teams have often looked to imports – some on monster contracts – during the franchising era to remain competitive, the development of the region’s talent pipeline has taken a back seat.
Addressing this, Aletaha says that more needs to be done to “bridge the gap” between grassroots amateur and collegiate scenes, and the professional one. Of course, the NACL also needs to be factored in, hence its recent restructuring. As part of the new system, partner revenue-sharing will become available to the NACL for the first time, while a true promotion/relegation system is being introduced, seemingly to encourage competitiveness.
However, the big point of contention which has sparked weeks of discussion, and subsequent LCSPA action, is the sudden removal of the requirement for LCS teams to field an NACL team at their request. Although the LCSPA anticipated that such a change would occur, the crux of the issue lies largely in the fact that the decision contravened previous assurances that the move would not happen prior to the end of 2023, giving cause for concern over the immediate futures of players and staff.
In response to the decision, a successful walkout vote took place on May 28. As a result of this, unless Riot came to the negotiating table, LCS pros would refuse to take their seats in the Riot Games Arena when the 2023 Summer Split rolled around. On May 30, reports surfaced that Riot had removed the minimum ranked requirement for LCS, and was allowing teams to field scab players so that the show could go on.
With this latest update, however, it looks like Riot has softened its stance somewhat – be it because the scab contingency plan didn’t “hold true” to its values, orgs couldn’t meet the player requirements, or otherwise. According to Aletaha, the league will be delayed for two weeks – a decision Riot has already made the LCSPA aware of. During this time, it hopes to engage in “productive dialogue between the LCSPA, teams, and the league”.
While Aletaha has publicly refused to facilitate the majority of the requests made by the LCSPA – you can check out the full response as part of the blog post here – the LCSPA’s latest statement indicates that there’s hope for a peaceful resolution. Negotiations are on a timer, though, with Aletaha stating that Riot is “prepared to cancel the entire LCS summer season” should an agreement not be reached within the next fortnight, due to how tight the competitive calendar timings are. This would equate to an NA-less LoL Worlds for the first time in the esports’ history – an outcome neither she nor Riot wants.
This statement has subsequently received criticism online, with a number of fans perceiving it as a thinly-veiled threat against the players – get back to playing, or miss out on Worlds. Regardless of its intent, it’s perhaps indicative of the complex power dynamics at play.
Needless to say, it’s good to see that we won’t have sham rosters playing on June 1. But as this dispute at the top of NA’s LoL ranks continues, it’s unclear whether Riot and the LCSPA will find the compromise they seek before time runs out. Hopefully, there’ll be positive news to report soon.