So… How Do eSports Work?


Riot Games

Poster for League of Legends World Championship

The final match of the annual League of Legends Worlds tournament was set for Friday, November 5, and followers of the sport were hyped about it for some time. And, as A-TECH students, it is inevitable that we will have to listen to someone talk about it at some point. A large portion of us, however, do not follow eSports and get confused when listening to the others rave about how an NA team got beat out by a newbie Wildcard team.

With that in mind, it would be helpful for us to have an outline for how this sport works. Listening to someone try to explain it tends to make it more confusing. So, to aid all the uninvolved in these conversations, here’s the basic rundown:

There are four League of Legends tournaments in a year, with each one of them leading into another.

The teams participating in these tournaments come from thirteen regions, the most important of which are Korea (KR), North America (NA), Europe (EU), China (CN), and the joint of Taiwan, Macau, and Hong Kong, known as LMS. The remaining seven regions are known collectively as Wildcards due to their teams being underfunded and underskilled in comparison to the other regions.

Korea is consistently the best region out of the big five, while North America is consistently the worst.

The first of the four tournaments is called Spring Split. This tournament functions internally within each region, and works in the same way that most tournaments would.

Where it gets complicated is just after Spring Split. The Spring Split winners from each region go on to represent their region in the next tournament, called the Mid-Season Invitational, or MSI.

MSI and Worlds share a multi-stage format. The first stage is the Play-In stage. The teams eliminate each other in multiple round-robin mini-tournaments.

The winners from the Play-In go on to the Group stage. In the case of MSI, this leaves six teams left over. MSI’s group stage is a best-of-one double round robin. Simple, right? There is a catch, however. Only the Wildcards, NA, and LMS participated in 2017 MSI. This is because they took into consideration every region’s performance at MSI and Worlds. Due to this, KR, CN, and EU, who performed the best over the last two years, got to skip the Play-In stage and go directly to the Group stage.

After the Group stage comes the Knockout stage, where the teams are given their final placements.

The top four teams from MSI secure an auto-seed slot in Worlds. These slots are secured for the region, not from the team. Additionally, the top ranking Wildcard team also secures an auto-seed for their region. The actual teams that fill out these slots are determined at the next tournament, Summer Split.

Summer Split functions much in the same way that Spring Split does, but with the addition of tournament points. These are awarded to each team for winning games during the split and are independent of the actual placement of the team.

The Summer Split winner from each region is sent to the Play-In stage of Worlds, just as they would be sent to MSI. These teams are called the first seed teams.

Additionally, the top four regions from MSI get a second seed. The second seed is decided by who scores the most tournament points during the Summer Split. Also, if KR is top four at MSI (which is basically guaranteed), they get a third seed. The first seed teams from the top four regions are auto-seeded into the Group stage.

Once the Play-In stage of Worlds is completed, the surviving teams are randomly placed in four groups. The four top teams from earlier have already been placed in different groups at this point. This system keeps weaker teams from being seeded into a group with a disproportionate number of stronger teams, effectively increasing their chances of making it to later rounds.

The second seeds from the four top regions do not get auto-seeded into groups like the first seeds do, and have to go through the Play-In stage like usual.

The first seed from the top ranking Wildcard region from earlier is also auto-seeded with the first seeds from the top four regions.

After the Group stage, the Semifinals and Finals stages occur. And, with that, we have reached the point in the tournament we are at now.

Now you can understand what people mean when they say this year has been particularly interesting.

As was mentioned before, an NA team was beaten out by a newbie Wildcard team during the Play-In stage of Worlds, further perpetuating the long-accepted stereotype that NA teams are essentially garbage.

Also, all the Chinese teams were knocked out in the Semifinals, meaning that the Finals, which are being hosted in China, will be played between two Korean teams. This means that no matter the outcome, KR will secure its fifth championship in a row. One of the players from these teams stated that he wants to finish Finals quickly so that he can go eat food.

TL;DR: Korea always wins.