In a conference with Chinese press at the start of the new LPL season, Tencent representative Jin Yibo and Riot Games representative Ye Qiang discussed the future of the League of Legends Pro League. During the conference, they announced a new international tournament in July, commented on the impact of NBA investment on esports, and discussed implementing circuit tours to move the LPL to places outside Shanghai.
In order to satisfy the demand for more international competition, Rioter Ye Qiang revealed that the company had considered the often promulgated suggestion of shortening the length of the Spring season but came up with a different alternative.
“We considered this, but the spring and summer season length stays the same as last year. We also have to think of some different kinds of international events. In July this year, there will be a new international tournament. I still cannot disclose too many details.”
To expand, Ye Qiang implied that this would not be a tournament in the same style as the Mid Season Invitational or the World Championship.
“We are still considering what kind of event would be the most interesting for everyone. For example, can we do a World Cup-type tournament? We hope LoL events can be more diversified, can satisfy our audience, and can give everyone a better player experience, so this is what we will target for the event this year in July. Wait and see.”
Plans to expand opportunities for international competition were not limited to the highest level of play. Recently, Chinese University teams participated in an international university circuit in Asia.
“The future does not rule out allowing some other universities in the world participate in this event,” Ye Qiang said. “We will go slowly to prepare and plan for the future, but for now, we will continue to develop our existing foundation.”
Aside from providing more opportunities for teams to play abroad, representatives were particularly concerned with improving the LPL’s brand image in China.
“NBA [investment] shows the brand image is healthy,” Jin Yibo said. “We hope you refer to the LPL, not as a group of addicted children playing a game, but like just now when the opening represented the healthy image of the sun and each team’s fighting style. It’s a comparatively good brand image.”
Jin Yibo feels that giving more fans outside Shanghai the ability to attend matches will help improve the social image of the game. “We’ve considered more offline events, such as a city circuit,” Jin Yibo said. “because we feel that gaming is popular not just online. It’s not everyone in front of a computer watching the game … We are concerned with the social aspects.”
“We and Ye Qiang’s team have a lot of plans,” Jin Yibo added. “Our LPL finals have already been held in different places, including Huangzhou and Guangzhou. Because of the characteristics of a long-term season, if there isn’t a particularly large change, we can’t easily move our location. We will draw-up a long-term plan for games to be held all over the country.
“Right now we want to set up a system. For example, something where local clubs and local resources can collaborate. We’re already conducting experiments with district matches [Note: LSPL feeder circuit is known as “City of Heroes” with local district winners feeding into the tournament]. For example, in Jiangsu Province, Clubs are playing a tour circuit in the city. This is a trial of a popular way in the future to allow more people to see the teams and players participate in matches. LPL will certainly remain in Shanghai this season, but we look to how we can change in the future.”
Jin Yibo also expressed his disappointment at the performance of LPL teams participating in the 2016 World Championship.
“In 2016, we had a lot of breakthroughs … but also are not satisfied, because our LPL teams in the World Championship did not to achieve good results. For example, for the Premiership or La Liga, if their team in the Champions League does not perform well, then you say the League itself is not particularly satisfying … I hope the players of LPL teams can continue fighting. If you can get a very good results, it lets everyone be happy.”
Visit the 178 website for a full Chinese copy of the press conference.
You can follow Kelsey Moser on Twitter @karonmoser.