TL;DR: NA LCS is switching back to a double Bo1 regular season starting in 2018.
Every split, we evaluate if the NA LCS format and schedule are creating competitive and entertaining matches. After three splits of Best of 3s (Bo3) in the regular season, we’ve weighed a lot of info including months of surveying fans, conducting focus groups, auditing viewership for both streams, and reviewing feedback from fans, teams, and pros. As a result, we’ve decided to move the NA LCS back to a double Bo1 regular season starting with the 2018 Season.
What’s the goal of the regular season? How do we evaluate a format?
We’ve always used the guiding principles that the NA LCS format should create highly competitive and extremely entertaining matches. We want the NA LCS regular season format to:
Be accessible for fans to watch weekly
Support balanced exposure for all teams, pros, and their sponsors
Send the best and most competitive teams to Playoffs
When we looked at the existing Bo3 format, we looked at the following areas:
Fan Behavior: We actively analyze how players watch the NA LCS, including how they’re watching Bo3s - are they queuing up to watch one team’s matches or just jumping into the broadcast when they have time regardless of the match? Is there an oversaturation of esports content that's making fans choose between watching the LCS and playing League of Legends? That allows us to identify any emerging trends that could impact the health of the League.
Viewership: The more fans are watching, and the longer they are tuning in, the stronger and healthier the league is. These numbers matter at all levels of the league, from the overall value and future of the league down to the pros themselves. They affect the value of ads on streams, the value of team sponsorship deals, and the revenue share available to teams/pros for next year. It’s not the only measure but it’s the best objective way to measure if the league is successful.
Community Feedback: We actively measure community feedback around the NA LCS through multiple methods including surveys, focus groups, and online sentiment. Our goal is that fans, pros, and teams trust that we’re delivering a fair, competitive format that sends the best teams to Playoffs.
Why did we switch to Bo3? What was the impact?
When we made the switch back to Bo3 back in 2016, we based our decision on a couple of factors. Primarily, we believed that the new format would make the NA LCS a better experience for fans based on three assumptions. An assumption was that a more competitive series-based format would better prepare teams for international events like MSI and Worlds. Equally, we believed that Bo3 series would give fans of specific teams more games to watch - that they would tune in specifically to watch a Bo3 of their favorite team. The last assumption is that the Bo3 format would be a more enjoyable viewing experience than Bo1s because you could see storylines unfolding over the course of a series. When we sought out feedback from pros, teams, and the community, we heard some of the same assumptions and supported the change to Bo3.
Although we had initial positive feedback, when looking at our data week over week and surveying NA LCS fans, we saw some of our assumptions proved wrong. Importantly, Bo3s have made it harder and less enjoyable to watch, and many fans don’t tune in to watch an entire series.
More than half of fans start watching a Bo3 regardless of what game in the series teams were currently playing - they are not getting the payoff of watching a series unfold.
Almost half of fans are having trouble finding time to watch an entire Bo3 matchup, making the NA LCS less approachable for the average fan - many just prefer to play League of Legends instead of watch a Bo3.
Fans cite Bo3s and too many games as a factor when they stop watching as much as they used to.
Across all of these mediums, the message that we've received from fans is that they'd welcome a change back to Best of 1. We believe this format change is the way to make the NA LCS more intuitive for new fans, makes following and watching easier for everyone, and is the right decision for the health of the League.
We talked these trends through with pros via the NA LCS Players' Association and discussed the pros and cons of more games/competition vs. optimizing for more fans to tune in. When walking through various options, the majority of pros agreed that the benefits of Bo3 did not outweigh the tradeoffs. They also agreed that while a lot of regular season games could be effective, it has diminishing returns. In order to address the concern that Bo1s do not allow enough games for teams to develop proper synergy or preparation for international play, we're working with the Players Association and teams to make practice and scrims more efficient. We feel there's a lot of gains to be made in both practice efficiency and tools. We’re working closely with all potential owners to make sure there's a commitment to the same goals above to ensure a smooth transition to Bo1.
Why go back to Bo1? Why not try something else?
Feedback showed us that fans preferred watching more content across multiple teams than tuning in selectively for matches specifically of one team. After reviewing numerous options, we’re moving back to Bo1 because it’s:
A more digestible format for fans to watch than Bo3s
One of the few formats that allows us to get rid of dual streams – fans, teams, and pros gave feedback that they prefer a single stream for games unless it’s specialized content (such as a lane focused cast)
A structure that gives fans more time to go explore/dive in to team content
A format that doesn't have high stress points. Formats that include high variability in start times (Bo3s), Super Weeks, or a tournament structure allow fans to tune out and come back during Playoffs or Finals
Easier for fans to follow from beginning to end and can provide less repetitive gameplay with a potential for more champion diversity - even if the tradeoff is occasionally ‘safe’ picks from stronger teams and/or cheese picks from weaker teams.
More straightforward to predict start times for fans who want to see their team play. We could’ve moved to scheduling Bo3s at set times but we didn’t want fans to wait unnecessarily for the next series.
With the move to Bo1s, another change we’ll be implementing is that teams get side selection once instead of each team being assigned red and blue automatically. We’re making this change so that teams can opt into what side they play on to provide a level of fairness and balance as the meta potentially shifts between patches.
Could Bo3s ever come back?
We’ll continue to review if our format and schedule are creating entertaining and competitive matches. If we see a shift in how fans watch the NA LCS or a better format to create compelling competition, we’d be open to looking at it as an option again as we would with any type of format change.
Does this mean NA LCS is moving away from 3-day broadcast? Will it go back to weekends at noon PT?
Yes, we’ll be going back to a single stream for weekend games. We may bring back special alt streams such as position focused casts, but we won’t have dual streams every week. We’ll confirm the start times and any additional changes coming to the NA LCS in the offseason.
When will the NA LCS start with the new format?
We’ll be introducing this format change to the NA LCS at the start of the 2018 Spring Split on January 20. This was not a change we’ve made lightly, but after three splits, we think this is the right move to ensure the longevity and sustainability of our sport in North America for years to come. We believe this format change will provide a valuable, entertaining regular season for our pros, fans, and teams.
Bear Schmiedicker, yes, Bear is his real name, is one of the NA LCS Leads. He previously led and grew the NA Player Support team at Riot and has had a long history and passion for Esports. When he isn’t on the Rift or the NA LCS studio, he’s chasing around two corgis (Appa and Korra). On Twitter, he’s just @bearfromspace.
Bo1 hehe xd gj rito.
Una gran mierda que baja el nivel.
Que las LCS han aumentado con los Bo3.
Ojalá los equipos se pronuncien ante esto.