Riot with a Successful PR Campaign
Posted 2013-04-16 Bcrbo
In the wake of the most dramatic 1 vs. 1 League of Legends has yet to see, the LCS All-Star vote has been closed and all the candidates are in. Whilst the battle between s0AZ and Wickd was a tense affair to determine which player was morally more deserving of the role for Solo Top in Europe's best team, some questions do linger on after the whole All-Star selection spectacle.
Riot's Mid Season Entertainment
Riot Games’ most daring attempt at controlling and widening the scope of the competitive League of Legends scene, the League of Legends Championship Series, is about to reach the final stages of the Spring season. Although some dare say the LCS has saturated the weekly League of Legends viewing content, there’s no denying the amount of spectacular escapes, multi-kills and upsets we have seen happen the last months.
Yes, it’s definitely been a good time for the League of Legends communities in Europe and North America, with all their favourite teams fighting for the big prizes at the end of the year and with constant action of the highest shelf. Yet the LCS has separated the most vital regions entirely. Whereas 2012 would offer a major MLG, IEM or OGN event about every two months, 2013 has been null in void with regards to cross-continental play. The only big exception to that rule was the IEM World Championship, but that was a simply dramatic event for LCS teams (SK, Fnatic and EG fell extremely fast and not a single NA team was present). So no, we’ve missed out on the CLG versus EG or TSM vs Fnatic match-ups.
Riot Games seems to have realised that and immediately prompted a huge PR campaign: to kill two birds with one stone. Well, three to be fair. Gathering the biggest names from NA and Europe. This pleases the critical Western masses to no end. Have the event take place in the rising League of Legends east that is China to pull lots of viewing traffic from a big market they are hoping to be as dominantly part of as for example: Taiwan or South-Korea. I’m not here saying there’s anything wrong with having a big event just to please the viewing crowds, with not much worth on a competitive level. If there’s a conclusion to be made weeks before the event, it’s that this All-Star game will not definitively determine which region is the best. There’s no competitive gain to be had from watching thousands of Chinese enthusiasts watch a TSM-DIG-CLG-CRS mix battle a FNC-EG-SK-GG mix. If anything, it’s just a mid-season appetizer for the World Finals we will get to enjoy in October.
The Community Decided
No, this event is a pure, non-stop entertainment train. So what do you do when you have set up an extravagant event to have five Europeans battle five Americans? You let the people decide of course. Through the wonders of the web, it’s possible to collect opinions from all over the globe within an instant. So yes, everyone from everywhere can voice their opinion on which five people should be sent to compete at the All-Star game. The mass vote from April 2nd until yesterday determined which five players from each region get to represent their continent at the All-Star match. It’s this that befuddled me.
How did Riot Games honestly hope to get the best possible players from each region to represent if they leave it up to a public and ultimately popularity vote? If anything, this vote rewards those that have the biggest social media presence and invest more time in communicating with fans – yes it’s an important part of being a professional gamer, but arguably second in line to practising. What odds do the individuals from the bottom teams have? Surely there are a great deal who would put Bjergsen on par with Ocelote / Froggen / xPeke / Alex_Ich? Yet, his social media presence is but a tenth of his EG / SK / Fnatic and GG competitors.
Don’t get me wrong, this is no rage on why the general community should not have been allowed to vote, on why this was against everything we wanted. It’s none of that. Myself and several others just feel there needed to be a mixture of both quality and quantity assessment. After all, the general community’s enjoyment will surely go up when the purely best ten players would have been selected and show us some of the sick moves that warranted them a spot to begin with. There’s no point in having just those with the biggest fan bases, because then we might as well have reserved a spot for loud mouths Athene and PhantomL0rd.
Why not use one of the more standard sports industry systems? Divide up the amount of vote importance between three: 25% to the press, 25% to the players and 50% to the community. It’s simply a suggestion and the exact value of each group can be de- or promoted to fit what Riot Games believe in most. It just seems fair to include supposedly objective outsiders value on quality over quantity (journalists should not play favourites and players should be completely free of choice when they are not bound by loyalty to their team mates). This way, the community still gets to play a vital role and Riot gets to be very happy with the amount of headlines and Tweets their All-Star game is donning.
The Dangers of a Public Vote
Furthermore, it’s been a proven historic fact in eSports that fully open community polls tend to end in drama. Not in the least by hacking attempts, organized by teams desperate to attend or fans who simply want to see their idols succeed more than anyone else. We don’t want a reminder of the e-Stars Seoul 2008 public vote when the impossible all of a sudden seemed normal, seeing a French team take the win, ahead of all superstar Counter-Strike 1.6 teams of the time. Although I don’t doubt the technical abilities of Riot Games, I do know that hackers are always the pioneers and prevention is a harder card to pull than finding solutions. Even though there have been no confirmed or rumoured attempts for the All-Star vote, it seems only logical that those who miss out on attending might feel neglected by an inherently flawed measurement system. So why go through the trouble of spending so much time hyping up the entire event to see it followed by a potential PR scandal when offended losers start accusing hopeful victors and there’s no definite proof to claim the vote has been truly fair. If you value all those votes at only half and include trusted votes by community figures (players and press), the chances of corruption are still equally present, but play an ultimately smaller role in the final decision.
Unless, of course, it’s exactly this that Riot Games is after? I don’t want to call the eSports lovers at Riot Games malevolent, but surely they are clever enough to know this is a flawed approach to something that should be a highpoint for them? Surely they know that discussions and debates are likely to ensue?
So is it that far-fetched to think the Californian company wants all of these debates and discussions to arise? If the entire selection process does not fully come down to who gets the most votes from strangers, would all of the organisations and players have utilized their marketing departments that much? Would we have seen all of the players spamming a link to the vote every two or three hours on Twitch, Twitter and Facebook? Would we have seen about five topics on who votes for whom a day on /r/leagueoflegends?
Getting Exactly What They Wanted
I dare say that Riot Games knew exactly what it was getting in to and decided all this (social) media attention was well worth the potential ‘scandals’ to follow the vote on April 15th. If it was just the opinion of the players stacked up with some popularity voting to sway 10% here or there, there would not have been as much hype nor would the players have been plugging themselves that desperately. In the end, this is exactly what they wanted. A PR campaign that has served the business side of League of Legends most of all: creating hype for an event that takes place in the upcoming dead zone between Spring and Summer when all the LCS EU/NA teams are taking a break.
Well played Riot.