Taiwan League of Legends teams to face challenges from Japan in 2024
Taipei, Nov. 28 (CNA) League of Legends esports clubs in Taiwan will face tougher competition to secure spots in top international tournaments in 2024 after Riot, the game's developer, attempted to bolster the weakening esports ecosystem in much of Southeast Asia.
In a statement Monday, Riot announced a new upgrade to the Pacific Championship Series (PCS) -- a professional league comprising League of Legends clubs in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao and Southeast Asian countries except Vietnam -- to create a more competitive and sustainable ecosystem.
It will add the top three League of Legends Japan League (LJL) contenders to the PCS playoffs in 2024 after doing the same with the top two League of Legends Circuit Oceania (LCO) teams this year, narrowing the odds of Taiwanese clubs qualifying for top global events.
That's because even with the addition of teams to the PCS playoffs, the number of slots available to PCS playoff teams in the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) and the World Championships, the biggest tourneys held by Riot for top League of Legends teams, will remain the same.
Only one team from the PCS playoffs makes the MSI, usually held in May, and only two get berths in the Worlds, normally held in October and November.
"Similar to when LCO joined the PCS ecosystem last season, the LJL will continue to play its domestic season in Japan," Riot said in a statement.
"Then, the top three teams from LJL will seed into the PCS Playoffs and compete with other PCS and LCO teams for a spot at international events such as MSI and Worlds."
PCS analyst Chang "ZOD" Po-cheng (張博誠) told CNA that the change was made to boost the region's competitiveness given the declining performances of the PCS and LJL in 2023, and that pitting teams from the leagues against each other should sharpen their competitive edge.
Clubs in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau have all struggled in the past few years because those markets' top gamers tend to gravitate to the more financially lucrative Chinese league, the League of Legends Pro League (LPL).
Four of Taiwan's six League of Legends players at the Hangzhou Asian Games, for example, competed in the LPL.
The decline in the caliber of the PCS ecosystem is reflected in the performance of PCS teams at the World Championships since they were first held in 2020.
Only once since the Worlds were first held have the two PCS qualifiers made it through a preliminary play-in just to get to the tournament's group stage, and that was in 2020. Both PCS qualifiers were eliminated in the play-in stage at this year's Worlds.
Despite understanding why Riot added LJL teams to the PCS playoffs, ZOD was somewhat skeptical that it will really strengthen the PCS ecosystem.
"Based on the inclusion of the LCO in PCS, the LCO and LJL will have to be stronger if we want a bright future. Otherwise, the big tournament berths will still go to PCS teams," he said.
The LCO teams were 3-24 in the PCS playoffs in 2023, while the PSG Talon and CTBC Flying Oyster -- the two teams representing the PCS in the Worlds -- did not lose a single game to the DetonatioN FocusMe (DFM) from the LJL on the international stage this year.
Riot admitted that its large-scale reorganization could come with "some growing pains," but it believed it will be worth it over time.
"This approach to enhance the competitiveness of our sport will continue for years to come," Riot said. "We are confident that this development will ultimately help make our league more sustainable for the future."
Regardless of the move, however, ZOD said international success remains the key to the long-term viability of any esports club, especially given the shrinking investment in the sport at the club level.
"If you have great performances, you will receive more attention, and that will bring you more resources," ZOD said.
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