In an incredibly bold move, Riot Games shows the world why they are the leader of Action Real Time Strategy (ARTS) eSports by announcing a 5 million dollar prize pool for their season 2 championships. By announcing a prize pool this big, they are also sending a message to the world that eSports is the future and cannot be overlooked. This tournament has the largest prize pool in eSports history for any game, in any country, and with the the growing viewership of online spectators, there is no problem in finding people to watch the games. Riot Games proudly declared in their announcement video that halfway through season 2 more people were tuning in to watch matches of League of Legends than Major League Baseball games on ESPN. With viewership numbers like these, the statement Riot Games is sending to the world is sure to be heard.
So who is Riot Games and why would they offer up such a large prize pool for their tournament? Riot Games is the developer behind the wildly successful free-to-play game, League of Legends. In 2011, Riot Games became one of the largest contributors to PC gaming revenue in the world by revolutionizing the micro-transaction based business model in their free to play games. As a result League of Legends earns itself the title of most played PC in 2011 and is growing in active members in 2012 world wide. With a move as bold as announcing a 5 million prize pool, its overall active members and total number of professional teams are sure to rise.
In addition to encouraging growth by displaying their dedication to the industry, Riot Games has solidified their positions as leaders in competitive ARTS games. None of their current competition is able to make this large of a contribution to the competitions, let alone justify providing it. On one hand you can make the assumption that they are trying to dominate the market and push out the competition, but at the same time becoming the dominant company of the genre will allow them to focus more of their efforts on the growth of eSports as a whole. They have already created a fantastic game with a development team creating new content at a consistent monthly pace. Now is the time to reach out and expand their audience while helping to nurture talented players on an international level who have interest in joining or starting a professional team. Riot understands this and I feel that this giant leap of generosity will not be the last of its kind.
The Season 2 regional qualifiers will be held in 5 cities in 5 different countries around the world before the grand finals in Los Angeles, California later this year. The competition is already fierce and it’s only going to get better now that teams from every region of the world will now have a chance to face-off. I personally would love to see Europe’s Moscow5 be matched up against Team OP from the OGN Leagues in Korea. And with only 12 spots available for the finals in LA, some of the teams will have to travel to foreign tournaments in order to secure a spot. Needless to say, the 2012 summer is going to be a season of wild growth and stiff competition.
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