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Franchising to Become a Reality for 2018 NA LCS Season

2 June 2017 10:23

eSports is changing at an increasingly fast pace, and today marked a significant step in the sport’s history after Riot Games announced that the 2018 NA LCS season will be the first to consist entirely of franchise teams. Since 2016, organisations have been repeatedly requesting this move for the popular League of Legends league and it looks like officials have finally caved in to the pressure.

This change would make teams ‘permanent partners’ of the league, resulting in the discarding of the current relegation and promotion format in the world’s biggest LoL scene. It’s guaranteed that some people will view that as a crying shame, as it eliminates potentially the most exciting part of the tournament for some whilst preventing some people’s favourite teams from reaching the top league.

How Will it Work?

The lucky teams that are chosen to be franchised must meet the financial buy-in set at a firm $10million ($13million for new teams). This may seem like a lot, but the assumption is that these teams will no doubt earn that investment back, and then some, through revenue share with Riot Games. 32.5% of revenues from the LCS will be split among teams, with half of that shared equally amongst all ten and the other half based on performance. Considering the current stellar growth of eSports, this could be a very sensible investment for those that can afford it.

Why Franchise the League?

By franchising the league, Riot Games wants teams to promote long-term investment in their players in an effort to clear up the current mess of a market some players find themselves drifting in and out of. Teams who apply for a spot in the new franchise model must show a clear strategy for player development and retention, along with a sustainable plan for players once their careers have finished, something which seems to be happening earlier and earlier for some. The minimum salary for players will also be raised to $75,000 under the new terms.

The Challenger Series

Now the promotion/relegation model is set to go, the Challenger series is also set to receive a full overhaul. It will become an academy league in which franchised teams will field developmental players who aren’t quite ready for the full roster. This will allow for more players to still be involved with LCS and will keep the standard high, but it won’t have the same impact or excitement as the current Challenger series does, that’s for sure.

When Will the Team Announcements Be Made?

The application process runs through to the 14th July, but official team announcements won’t be made until November (likely to be after the 2017 World Championships that finish on 4th November). The big-name teams like Team SoloMid, Counter Logic Gaming and Cloud9 are all looking like locks to be part of the new franchise model, assuming the buy-in funds aren’t a problem. New teams such as Immortals, FlyQuest and Team EnVyUs could find themselves on the way out, leaving their players in limbo. Moving towards a franchise model and allowing new teams to buy in at a higher price also opens the door for big name sponsors to get involved that may not have previously done so, due to the nature of the revenue share with Riot Games.

Time will tell whether this will be a positive or negative change,  but it’s fair to say this could be one big turning point in both LoL and eSports history.

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Updated on: 2017-08-18

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