8th December, 2016
Ever since its birth in 2011, the League of Legends World Championship tournament has become one of the most watched eSport events in the world. With millions of viewers tuning in to watch teams battle it out for the famous summoner's cup and thousands of people attending the stadium, there’s no denying its popularity.
With Riot recently releasing the latest recording breaking figures for the season 6 World Championship, we thought we’d give you a brief history lesson on how popular the event has become.
To see how far the World Championships have come, we must start way back in 2011 when the first ever World tournament took place in Jönköping.
Back in 2011 after recently celebrating its 2nd year anniversary, Riot wanted to take League of Legends to the next level. Their vision was to create a competitive tournament that took place every year and would through League of Legends into the eSports spotlight.
The first World Championship took place in June 2011 at the Dreamhack Summer LAN party. Since it was the first tournament ever and Riot weren’t sure if it was going to be a success, they held it at an already successful international LAN party. The tournament featured a $100,000 USD prize pool with $50,000 going to the 1st place team.
Over the 3 day event, a total over 1.69 million unique viewers tuned in to watch the event with over 210,000 people watching the finals alone. At the time, it was considered the most popular eSports events ever observed, little did everyone know what was to come.
After the success of the Season 1 World Championships, Riot decided to up the stakes. They increased the total prize pool to $2 million USD, with $1 million USD going to the winners. At the time, it was the largest eSports prize pool ever seen.
Unlike last time, Riot decided to extend the period of the Championships and held all the group stages, quarter finals and semi-final matches over 2 days while scheduling the final a week later. This time the final took place at the University of Southern California’s Galen Center in front of 10,000 fans raising their dongers.
The entire tournament was live streamed and broadcast in over 13 different languages. During the match 8 million unique viewers tuned in to watch teams battle it out. For the final match, a record-breaking 1.1 million unique peak viewers tuned in making it the most watched eSports event of all time.
Similar to the Season 2 Championships, the Season 3 Championships were held throughout Los Angeles in 2013. The grand finals took place at the famous Staples Center with a maximum capacity of 20,000 people.
The finals for the tournament between SK Telecom T1 and Royal Club took place on October 4th and were watched by 32 million people throughout the 5 matches. At its peak, a record-breaking 8.5 million unique viewers tuned in to watch SK Telecom T1 lift the summoner’s trophy for the first time. At the time the viewing figures were record breaking again and not only became the most watched eSports event but also beat the 2013 NBA Finals and 2013 World Series.
For the Season 4 World Championships the tournament took place in Taipei with the grand finals taking place in Seoul. The tournament lasted an impressive 15 days and saw 16 teams take part in the competition.
The finals took place at the famous Seoul World Cup Stadium with a capacity of 45,000. These finals saw South Korea’s Samsung Galaxy White beat the Chinese team Star Horn Royal Club to claim their first League of Legends Championship win.
The Season 4 World Championship games were live streamed by 40 online broadcasters and were translated into 19 different languages. The grand final itself was watched by an impressive 27 million unique viewers, with the concurrent viewership peaking at over 11 million viewers. The average view time for the finals were 67 minutes compared to Season 3’s average of only 42. It was clear that the viewing figures were up and Riot had yet another record breaking year on their hands.
After a huge success in Season 4, Riot made some changes to the World Championship to improve the tournament and overall gameplay. The number of teams from the North American and European regions were increased from 8 to 10. With more teams competing in the tournament it was a move bound to get more viewers watching the tournament.
The Season 5 tournament took place throughout Europe and took place in several cities and countries. The finals saw World Champions SKT take on the new challengers the Koo Tigers in Berlin’s Mercedes-Benz Arena. The finals were watched by 36 million unique viewers with a peak concurrent viewership of 14 million viewers. Both stats were up from last year making it the most watched eSports event to date.
The most recent World Championship took place near the end of 2016 and was held throughout the United States in Chicago, San Francisco, New York City and Los Angeles.
Over 15 days of group stages, quarter-finals, and semi-finals, teams from across the world battled it to claim the $1 million USD cash prize. In the end, SK Telecom T1 won against Samsung Galaxy and became the first team to have 3 Championship wins.
For the finals, an incredible 43 million viewers tuned in which was 7 million more than last year. There were also 14.7 million concurrent viewers which were also up by 700,000 from last year.
To help you understand the viewing figures here’s a handy infographic to show how these viewing figures compared to other major sports events.
With less than a year before the next World Championship we can only imagine what Riot have been cooking up. Maybe they will be introducing some new tournament changes or increasing the prize pool? Who knows! We’ll just have to wait and see…
One thing is for sure though, based on the ever-growing popularity and player base of League of Legends, it’s highly likely that 2017 Championship viewing figures will be the highest yet.