Turnout at “League” final proves eSports are here to stay
Competitive video gaming, or eSports, is now taking off in places like the United States, attracting thousands of people to major events. But in South Korea, more than anywhere else, it has already oozed into mainstream culture. Gaming competitions are televised as frequently as traditional sporting competitions.
Such excitement was on display in Seoul on Oct. 19. A sold out crowd of more than 40,000 fans filled the Seoul World Cup Stadium to watch the finale of the world championship for League of Legends, the most popular video game in the world, with 67 million monthly players. The match was also aired on the publisher of League of Legends (Riot’s) website, Twitch, and even ESPN 3, the channel’s live streaming service. This contest involved barely any muscular exertion beyond the furious clicking of fingers on a computer mouse and keyboard, but with corporate sponsors and a million-dollar prize to the winner, the championship series had the dramatic feel of any traditional sports title game.
The match featured a Korean team, Samsung White, which was matched up against a Chinese team, Star Horn Royal Club. Having lost only two games during the entire tournament, which consisted of a group stage followed by a bracket, the Korean team Samsung White was the clear favorite of the match. Their opponents, the Chinese team Star Horn Royal Club, included two Korean players alongside three Chinese players. Much like professional sports organizations, teams in one regional gaming league are able to pick up players from other regions. Samsung White went on to win the championship 3–1 and $1 million in prize money.
Unfortunately for Star Horn Royal Club, their defeat marked the second time in a row that they finished second place in the 2014 World Final.
The tournament as a whole saw better performances from North American teams than in previous years, though in the end it was still the top Asian teams who made it all the way to the finals. South Korea, which is widely considered the haven of eSports, is also home to the best League of Legends players in the world. Many often wonder why it is the case that Asian teams are so dominant in many eSports scenes, and most would say that it’s mainly due to a strictly regimented practice culture. Teams from elsewhere in the world are beginning to get more serious about practice, scrimmages, and competitive play in order to narrow the gap in international tournaments.
The World Championship’s record breaking attendance and viewership numbers makes it clear that League of Legend’s popularity is not waning.
With the distinction of becoming the most popular eSport in the world comes the responsibility to put on a show worthy of the largest gaming event of the year. Thankfully, the crew at Riot Games did not disappoint. From the enormous World Cup Stadium venue to a live performance from Imagine Dragons, who are League of Legends players themselves, the 2014 World Final was a spectacular success.