AFK Weekly: League of Legends Worlds 2021 Finals Posts Record Numbers
Week 4, November 2021
Hello everyone! With Act 3 of ‘Arcane’ topping the Netflix charts despite competition from popular established series such as 'Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness' and 'Cowboy Bebop,' esports' growing influence on mainstream culture was evident throughout the week. And it was not just the PC titles; mobile esports also managed to put itself in the spotlight with Garena featuring 20 in-game Free Fire skins on the catwalk of São Paulo Fashion Week.
Here’s a breakdown of all that and more in the latest edition of Esports Business Insights by AFK Gaming.
- Vignesh Raghuram, Supervising Editor, AFK Gaming
Worlds 2021 viewership numbers smashes previous records
Despite being almost 11 years old, League of Legends (LoL) continues to dominate esports viewership metrics, growing its audience numbers every year and maintaining its status as the most watched PC esports title in the world. The 2021 LoL World Championship (Worlds) set an all-time high in terms of viewership numbers. The finals saw over 4.02M viewers tune into the event in non-Chinese streaming platforms, according to Esports Charts. This made it the most viewed PC esports tournament in history, and the second most watched in esports next to the Free Fire World Series 2021 Singapore.
However, since the Grand Finals featured Edward Gaming, a team from the League of Legends Pro League (LPL) in China, the viewership on Chinese streaming platforms were expected to be magnitudes higher. According to Riot Games, the LoL 2021 World Championship accrued 73M peak concurrent viewers, an increase of almost 30M from the previous year and an average minute audience of 30.6M representing a 24.7% increase in this metric.
It's the second year in a row Riot has seen its most popular League of Legends event grow in viewership, with the 2021 LoL World Championship viewership surpassing the 4.7% growth that occurred with 2020’s Worlds event.
The last two LoL World Championships both featured a Chinese and Korean team, two of the biggest fanbases in the esport and were broadcast at times favorable to these audiences. Riot Games might face a tougher challenge to continue their YoY growth, since it will be hosting the 2022 LoL World Championship in North America across four major cities.
Key Takeaway: One of the most common critiques of esports from outside observers is the rapid turnover of video games. With so much competition across genres and new games releasing constantly, the fear is that no game can build the long term sustainability of a major traditional sport. League of Legends stands as the best counter to that argument, only growing more popular as a global powerhouse title year after year.
North Carolina establishes $5M fund to attract esports tournaments
North Carolina's state legislature will include a $5M grant for esports in the state's budget, according to the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau and Subnation Media. ‘The Esports Industry Grant Fund’ is aimed at incentivizing esports productions and event organizers to host their events in the state.
The funds will be managed by the Department of Commerce, and is reportedly targeted at larger events (costing at least $250K to run). Production companies can apply for a rebate of up to 25% on qualifying expenses.
Raleigh previously hosted the 2019 Rainbow Six Siege Raleigh Major which drew 2.6K daily attendees generating $1.45M in direct economic impact for the city. The city is scheduled to host another major esports tournament shortly, as it is the first official stop in the new Halo Infinite Championship Series circuit.
Key Takeaway: The United States has been behind much of the world when it comes to esports essentially since day one. Even now with so much investment from U.S. companies such as Riot and Activision Blizzard, nearly all of the event activity in the country is concentrated in New York and California. This legislation shows that other parts of the country are recognizing the importance of esports to the future of tourism.
Quick Shots Segment
Cloud9 licenses Smurfs IP for Apparel Drop
North American esports organization Cloud9 has collaborated with IMPS, the license holder for the Smurfs franchise to launch its own co-branded merchandise line. The range includes t-shirts, hoodies, hats, mouse pads, and more. Cloud9’s collaboration is the latest in a string of successful partnerships for esports organizations with cartoon characters. Just recently, Team Liquid partnered with Naruto, while Team Vitality teamed up with Adidas for a collection of Dragon Ball Z sneakers.
Talon raises $5M in Series A Funding
Talon has raised $5M in equity capital in its Series A financing round. The raise was led by digital entertainment, blockchain and gamification company Animoca Brands, which also participated in Talon's seed round investment in 2018. The Hong Kong-based esports organization currently hosts rosters in six esports titles including Dota 2 and League of Legends, the latter of which is partnered with French football giant PSG.
Netflix renews Arcane for a second season
Riot Games has confirmed that the LoL animated Netflix series, Arcane, is coming back for a season 2. This was revealed in a short teaser that featured the voices of characters from season 1, suggesting that the next chapter of the story could follow up on the events of the first season. Considering the popularity of the series on Netflix, this comes as no surprise.
Previously, Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent had confirmed that the company had committed to multiple seasons of the show. “It is very important for us to keep both creative and financial control as we enter the world of TV,” said Laurent. “We are committed to Arcane for multiple seasons. Creative will have the space to craft amazing stories and deep characters.”
Weibo purchases Suning Gaming and its spot in the LPL
Suning Gaming, runner-up at LoL Worlds 2020, has been acquired by Sina Corporation, the owner of Chinese social media platform Weibo. The LPL franchise has also been rebranded as Weibo Gaming. The franchise and its full rosters will now be transferred to the new company, following the acquisition. This is the second LPL organization to be bought out in this year with Ninjas in Pyjamas also acquiring a slot following its merger with ESV5.
Riot Games veteran joins Netflix
Former Riot Games Executive Producer, Leanne Loombe has joined Netflix as its Head of External Game Development. In her new role, Loombe will be helping Netflix build up its new games division alongside other senior executives. “I love how our industry is growing and changing and how connected entertainment is becoming,“ said Loombe in a post announcing her departure. “Whilst it was a very hard decision to leave Riot Games this is a rare and amazing opportunity to be part of something that can truly change the way we play games forever, and I believe that will be Netflix!”
Chinese government restricts Tencent from updating or launching Apps in China
The Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (CMIIT) has directed app stores and platforms in the country to restrict Tencent’s existing and future apps. According to Chinese financial media outlet Yicai, the CMIIT imposed these restrictions on Tencent after some of its apps were found to have infringed users' rights and interests. The company currently publishes over 100 mobile games in China which will be affected by this move.
On the Horizon
Valorant’s biggest ever tournament so far, VALORANT Champions 2021, kicks off in Berlin on Dec. 1. The event marks the conclusion of the Valorant Champions Tour 2021 and boasts the title’s biggest prize pool yet with $1M on the line. With CS:GO showcasing record numbers with the PGL Major Stockholm 2021, becoming the most watched PC FPS tournament ever, it will be interesting to see if Riot Games’ shooter can hold its own.
It is also quite a big week for mobile shooters as well, with the PUBG Mobile Global Championship 2021 officially beginning on Nov. 30. The previous edition of the tournament saw it set new records, pulling in an average viewership of 528.8K and a peak viewership of 3.8M, according to Esports Charts. It will be interesting to see if the title continues to show YoY growth in viewership, especially with the recent diversification of the mobile FPS space which includes the release of Apex Legends Mobile Beta and PUBG New State.
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