MSI 2023 was the best international LoL tournament in the past decade. The format was such an upgrade from previous years that, even with two different things going terribly wrong, this competition was head-and-shoulders above any Worlds in the history of the game.
Riot is taking steps in the right direction, but there's an area that they need to address urgently: broadcast talent.
League of Legends is blessed with dozens of talented people working in broadcast throughout all the regions. Experienced people who are passionate about their job and want to show that passion in the biggest stages the game can offer.
So why are we making broadcast decisions that imply that we don't have enough people for the jobs?
Before we get into MSI 2023 and the problem that originated this article, let's take a look at the last 3 years of international competition, to ensure this isn't a one off issue.
Exhibit A- Worlds 2020
Worlds 2020 carries quite a caveat with it, but it's important to highlight regardless. Riot had to make a remote broadcast with LCK talent casting from LoL Park, LPL casters casting remotely and LEC talent doing everything from their own studio in Berlin.
Did this force the decisions that were made for the playoffs, though? It doesn't seem like it. Quarterfinals kicked off wonderfully with Atlus and LS casting the DWG vs DRX all-LCK matchup. From there on out, it was all downhill, though. Let's take a look:
CaptainFlowers and Azael cast the LPL clash between Suning and JDG. Froskurrin and Drakos cast Damwon facing G2 in the semis, while Phreak and Kobe cast the game between Suning and Top Esports, another all-LPL battle. To conclude, Quickshot and Vedius were the chosen casters for the DWG vs SN Grand Finals.
No LPL talent cast a single game in the playoffs. Thankfully, Lyric was called multiple times to the analyst desk and was even included in the Worlds Countdown segment before the finals, but were was the LCK presence? DWG led the region to World Championship and there wasn't a single LCK representative on the entirety of the cast. There was an entire segment going over Damwon's history made by *checks notes* four LCS broadcasters. Why?
Were Atlus and LS not available? What was the LoL Park venue being used for? Why were two LEC casters chosen to narrate a series between an LPL and LCK team in the most important games of the year?
Exhibit B- MSI 2021
The playoffs start off with Clement Chu in the analyst desk of the RNG vs PSG which is cast by Phreak and Lyric, great!
But, seemingly, we forgot what we had just learn when we come to MAD vs DK. There's no LCK talent called in the Countdown segment and the cast is made by three LEC casters. The overwhelming favorites to win the series have no expert present to talk about them.
The grand finals is the same thing. They remembered that Lyric exists to represent the LPL, yet there's not a single person representing the LCK. The game is cast by CaptainFlowers and Azael. Again, why?
Riot hired four LCK casters to work the event: Atlus, Wolf, Valdes and Chronicler. They casted multiple games in the Groups and Rumble Stage and then disappear entirely from the broadcast and are not even able to show up remotely in an analyst desk.
Exhibit C- Worlds 2021
Quarterfinals here were handled quite well. T1 vs HLE is a 3 LCK cast done remotely from LoL Park. It's followed by RNG vs EDG which includes Lyric on the tri-cast.
But as with MSI, the Semifinals are an immediate downgrade that is not understandable. 4 LCK casters were hired for the event and the Quarter-Finals cast worked wonderfully. Why is this extremely important series between two storied teams in T1 and DK being cast by 2 LEC and 1 LCS caster? Valdes wasn't even used at all throughout the playoffs.
EDG vs GEN includes Lyric on the cast and Chronicler on the desk (who was also present for the previous series) and for the finals Atlus joins the tricast, but Lyric disappears from the broadcast and doesn't even show up for the Countdown.
Some improvements being made, but there are still some extremely puzzling decisions that leave LPL at a permanent disadvantage when it comes to broadcast talent, which is quite ironic given that they've been the most dominant region internationally for most of the past 5 years.
Exhibit C- MSI 2022
MSI 2022 playoffs marks what I'll call the "post-COVID era". Live fans are back and the broadcast isn't made up of Zoom segments. As the return to normalcy comes, so do some great signs in playoffs.
EG vs RNG had Lyric in the analyst desk and had Phreak, Kobe and Dagda doing a tricast which includes representatives from both regions. Great! The second series of the Knockout-stage remains pretty decent, with Vedius and Atlus representing G2 and T1 respectively in a tricast with Azael.
Yet, as we reach finals, the incomprehensible decisions quickly return. Another clash between LPL and LCK in RNG vs T1. Lyric is representing the Chinese region in the analyst desk, but who's casting? You guessed it, LEC and LCS talent. Where did Atlus go? Chronicler? Wolf? Dagda? Why are you paying regional experts to be at your international events if you don't let them show their expertise in the most important series of the tournaments?
Exhibit D- Worlds 2022
Worlds 2022 is perhaps the most egregious example so far. The improvements that we've been highlighting are entirely thrown out of the window in a tournament where 7 out of 8 teams in the playoffs come from the Asian regions.
The number of LCK representatives was cut in half from MSI, with only Atlus and Chronicler being present. On the LPL side of things, Lyric and Dagda are back. That's not great, but you can have at least one of them present in each LPL/LCK matchup, right?
You know the answer at this point. Dagda shows up at the analyst desk for JDG vs RGE and for the casting trio of T1 vs RNG and then completely disappears from the cast. Chronicler and Atlus don't show up again after Quarterfinals and Lyric inexplicably went home after Groups.
As you can see in the image, 3 all-LCK series and 2 LCK vs LPL matches happened in the playoffs. The semi-finals were LCK and LPL exclusively and the Finals was T1 vs DRX. There wasn't a single LCK or LPL representative in the last three series. Not on the cast or on the analyst desk.
What are these decisions based on and how do they manage to get worse with time?
Final Exhibit- MSI 2023
We're finally back to the very recent past. MSI 2023, the best international tournament of the past decade. The two best teams from each Major Region battle it out in Summoner's Rift and, as usual, the Asian teams stand taller.
This should be pretty obvious by now, as you've seen from the brackets of all international tournaments in the most recent years. But apparently, it's not obvious enough for Riot.
The LCK representatives got an upgrade from Worlds 2022 in an extra slot for the newcomer in Aux. On the other side of the coin, the LPL got downgraded to two representatives only, who exited the broadcast during the Play-in stage. Keep this detail in mind, it will be very relevant in a couple paragraphs.
Atlus and Chronicler casted two series together at MSI: GEN vs T1 in the second round of the bracket and T1 vs JDG in the fourth. Atlus, arguably the best Play-by-Play caster in this esport alongside CaptainFlowers wasn't used again for the remainder of the tournament. Chronicler remained an analyst for all the final series, being present when the two LCK seeds were eliminated.
As you know, the Finals was an all-LPL match. This wasn't exactly predictable, but at least an LPL team being present is pretty much a lock-in. They've won this tournament 4 times in the past 6 years.
With that in mind, how are only two people from the LPL present at the tournament and why are they only present for the most meaningless phase of it when their region has been so successful at MSI?
This is not a criticism towards the broadcast talent from Western regions. All the people present in these Riot broadcasts are extremely talented individuals who absolutely deserve the air-time they get at these international events.
Regardless of that fact, the English broadcast is a subpar product because we're trying to make the puzzles with the wrong pieces.
Casters and analysts spend their entire year following their respective regions. This is extra-relevant for LCK and LPL which play so many more games than LEC and LCS that it is not even comparable.
To put it simply, here's a few stats: 123 games were played in the LCS in Spring 2023. In the LEC 172. In the LCK 251. In the LPL? 379.
Someone who works in the broadcast of a Western region cannot follow either the LCK or LPL to the extent that the people working in those regions can. It is physically impossible.
Even if the broadcast talent from the LPL and LEC were the best they could ever be at condensing months of research into 4 to 5 weeks prep it is not possible to watch that many games in such a short span of time.
Regional representation is a must have and the fact that the regions that are put aside in the broadcast are the ones most successful internationally is simply egregious.
Viewership isn't even an excuse. You can have an LCS or LEC broadcast member in a tricast with someone from LPL or LCK without issue.
So many talented people work in the LPL and LCK broadcasts yet they rarely get chances to show their expertise in the international stage, and for what? So the LEC and LCS casters get yet another LPL vs LCK finals under their belt?
So, Riot Games, if you're going to give us yet another World Championship with a bad format after the best international tournament of this decade, at least make the much needed improvement of letting the LCK and LPL experts represent the regions that they spend their entire year studying.
Images courtesy of LoL Esports and Leaguepedia.
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