By Petar Vukobrat
January 12, 2020
The 2019 LEC season was, in short, a seismic triumph. No one could have foreseen the sheer amount of success franchising would create in the region. It affected viewership, teams, players, organizations, international competitiveness, the fostering of young native talent, etc. The sudden influx of money benefited everyone involved, and it seemed the region (and everyone in it) decided to step up at the same moment.
For Europe, the 2019 LEC season will long be remembered as the year with huge strides made.
Every important single element (short or long term), improved tenfold. Quite the spectacle, frankly. All these improvements coincided with the most recent shift in the meta. Now, all sudden, constant skirmishing was rewarded and was a positive thing. The best and most optimal way to play the game changed considerably in a short amount of time. Europe was one of the regions that benefited the most. There wasn’t a single thing that went awry and that’s rare.
So, let’s analyze the 2019 LEC season and focus on what made it such a huge success!
After the North American LCS adopted the franchising model, things didn’t exactly change much. Sure, some relatively minor benefits were obvious, but it wasn’t the huge shift many hoped for. Once the LEC got franchised, however, things changed irreversibly, and fortunately, a change for the better.
The amount of content the LEC produced was staggering. Pretty much all of it was exceptionally entertaining. There was so much content (both old and new) for us to consume: Eat Like A Pro, LEC Caster Ads, the EUphoria podcast, the LEC Mic Check, Meta Report, Vedius’ Picks to Watch, etc.
There were even a couple of unique pieces of entertainment like the Mediocre Rap Battles of LEC:
Mediocre Rap Battle of LEC｜Misfits vs. G2
Mediocre Rap Battle of the #LEC｜G2 vs Origen
Everyone involved with the LEC stepped up and it became evident from the moment the Spring Split began.
The EU LCS rebranded in more ways than one. The name changed, and along with it, everything related to the branding and overall visual identity. The logo, pre and post-game lobbies, statistics, in-game overlays, motion graphics, typography, the interior of the LEC Studio in Berlin, and many other aspects visible to anyone coming in person or watching online.
These were huge, sweeping changes and they were extremely bold by design. To go from the EU LCS aesthetic to this electrifying, contemporary design language was certainly a shock.
Many fans didn’t respond particularly well. But as time went on, everyone realized these were changes for the better. They not only infused the region with a fair bit of energy, but they also allowed the LEC to stand out in more ways than one.
Every single bit of information presented showed on-screen in spectacular fashion. Even the most boring graphs or game-related stats looked incredible. It was something engaging to look at both before and after the games.
Once the 2019 LEC season began, we saw new faces on the LEC stage. Some left a mark, like Oskar “Selfmade” Boderek, while others didn’t etch their names in history books. A ton of young native talent entered the LEC and went blow for blow with veterans. These were exciting times as these new faces brought a new approach to the game. They were hungry for the spotlight and willing to go the extra mile to make fans remember their names.
They fought with vigor and determination, which isn’t that frequent a sight with old, grizzled veterans. Perhaps most interestingly, these “rookies” weren’t afraid of throwing down with the best the LEC had to offer. They knew their time had come and fully seized the moment. Because of this, many mid-tier and bottom-tier teams improved considerably.
The region was still top-heavy, but the fight became fiercer than ever. You couldn’t predict who would end up in the second half of the playoff Top 6. Such a change in the status quo meant a lot more uncertainty and excitement in both Spring and Summer Split.
The most important thing is that organizations decided to sign and field the next breed of European talent. They didn’t take the LCS route and recycled the same players. Many of whom were past their prime. Or, what’s perhaps even worse, imported mediocre Korean players who were looking for a hefty paycheck.
Instead, they invested in players who proved their worth in the “B leagues” and who deserved the chance (and honor) to play on the LEC stage. The whole point of franchising is the freedom to invest in new players without the risk of relegation. It might not sound all that monumental. But it’s huge in the grand scheme of things and will seriously bolster Europe’s overall strength and potential in the long term.
2020 will bring much of the same. Over 10 new players join the fight come Spring Split and we can’t wait to see them compete!
The fact that so many new players entered the mix meant only the best old-timers remained signed. Now, this isn’t completely true, but the point still stands. Many old players and faces phased out. Their contracts were too expensive and failed to deliver any concrete results.
Certain organizations like Excel Esports and Rogue decided to field solo queue phenoms. It paid off in more ways than one. It allowed top-tier talent to consolidate, which, in turn, created many solid, well-rounded contenders like Splyce, Schalke 04 and Origen.
G2 Esports was still unassailable, but almost everyone below them had what it took to compete at the highest of levels. It’s no surprise to see Splyce find so much success against the best teams in the world. No one thought they could fight with the likes of SKT T1. Yet, they went blow for blow. The fact that they lost in no way diminishes their valiant effort.
If this trend continues, Europe is bound to become an insanely capable region that fosters spectacular, well-rounded challengers on all levels.
G2 Esports dominating beyond measure would indeed be an understatement. They were the definition of a superteam. Unlike many others who came before them, they found success and lots of it. They won two back-to-back splits and, more importantly, the 2019 Mid-Season Invitational. By doing so, they became the first European team to win a highly coveted international tournament. Their monumental triumph put Europe on the map. It made people consider them a bona fide challenger for the Worlds throne.
Despite their one-sided loss to FunPlus Phoenix in the finals, this five-man line-up is destined for greatness. They’re already one of the best and most talented teams in the history of the game. 2020 will provide them with yet another slew of challenges and opportunities to solidify their spot in the competitive League pantheon. Maybe they’ll go the extra mile and lift the Worlds trophy. The notion of them winning MSI was also far-fetched and improbable and yet it happened.
If there was ever a team with potential to surprise — no matter the odds — it must be G2 Esports.
The 2019 LEC season became the first year in LEC history that all three of its challengers reached the Knockout Stage at the World Championship. It is a monumental triumph. Worlds held in Europe was icing on the cake.
G2 Esports was considered a front-runner to win the whole thing with Fnatic right behind them in potential and prowess. Splyce looked to upset the world of competitive League and redefine everyone’s expectations. In the end, all three teams left a mark on the international stage.
G2 Esports and Fnatic probably aren’t happy with their results. Still, they have nothing to be ashamed of. They solidified Europe’s position as the second-best region in the world with back-to-back finals appearances.
Everyone’s expecting nothing but excellence from Europe in 2020 with more solid contenders than it ever did in the past.
In short, when it comes to Europe and its first franchised year, there isn’t a soul out there that wasn’t engaged by the top tier play and the spectacular production over at the LEC Studio in Berlin. The crew set a fantastic foundation on which they’ll continue to build on. If they keep improving at their current pace, we’re bound to be entertained beyond our wildest dreams.
The outlook is bright for the LEC, now more than ever.