There are 12 different professional League of Legends leagues spread across the world, which can make it hard for even the most diehard fans to keep track of everything. Developer Riot Games is rolling out a partial solution today: a complete rebrand with the aim of tying together the action from all over the globe. “We’re kind of at a pivot point with our sport,” says Riot’s David Higdon.
The core of the redesign is pretty simple: there’s a new logo — a minimalist version of League’s iconic map, Summoner’s Rift — along with a “LoL Esports” branding to tie it all together. But the idea behind it is much bigger. Outside of major international events like the annual Mid-Season Invitational or World Championships, the various teams and leagues rarely interact. With the new overarching brand, the goal is to more closely tie the various regions together. Higdon likens the structure to FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, which sits on top of all of the many professional leagues and associations across the world, organizing events like the World Cup.
Riot says viewership for the top four regions — China, South Korea, Europe, and North America — is up 128 percent this year, which the developer believes is due in part to “increasingly global viewing habits” of fans (i.e., people in the US are tuning in to games from China’s LPL, while Korean fans are checking out what’s happening in Europe). These habits are one of the reasons behind the new branding. To go along with the logo, Riot is also introducing new shows created specifically to connect all of the different regional leagues. These include a news show every Tuesday that will round up the latest developments across all 12 leagues, as well as a Wednesday highlights package covering the most exciting plays.
One of the hopes is that this new structure and focus will be a boon to some of the smaller leagues in the ecosystem. Right now, the top four regions dominate the conversation, both in terms of performances in international competitions and the ability to attract viewers and sponsors. “The numbers bear this out,” says Higdon. “You have the four major regions, and then you have the others.” Riot wants to ensure that the smaller leagues have an international spotlight more than once a year when teams a run at the world championship.
A new logo and a few shows won’t solve every issue. Time zones still create a logistical challenge for viewers, and the quality of play still varies greatly from region to region. But for Riot, the more focused structure is also a statement: League has long been one of the most successful competitive games in the world, and the developer wants to keep that going for as long as possible. “We consider ourselves very much in the leather helmet days,” says Higdon. “People forget that because, in the esports space, nine years is a long time. But we’re still very much in our infancy.”