ESL on Reviving the OPL Through the League of Legends Circuit Oceania
ESL, in conjunction with Guinevere Capital, has done what some in the League of Legends community considered a pipe dream: salvaging what the Oceanic Pro League had built in the region as a training ground for prospective pros with their League of Legends Circuit Oceania.
The new circuit will see Order, Pentanet, Chiefs, Dire Wolves, Legacy, Mammoth, Peace, and Gravitas compete in a double round-robin format, where eight teams face off against each other twice over the course of five weeks. At the conclusion of Regular Season, the bottom three teams will be eliminated. The remaining five teams advance through to a Double Elimination Playoffs running on March 30th-31st and April 6th-7th. Finals will take place on April 10th, where they will fight for the title of inaugural LCO champions and a place at the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI).
We had a chance to sit down with Peter Du, League Manager at ESL for the new project to find out how this new league came to be, as well as how involved Riot has been with its creation.
ESL Looks to Save the Oceania League of Legends Pro Scene
Dustin Steiner, Esports Talk: With Riot stepping back from an official league in the Oceanic region and ESL having to put forward a significant amount of effort to resurrect play there, is there any concern that Riot might step back in and restart the OPL after you put in so much effort? How much freedom has Riot given ESL in areas like marketing and sponsorship deals for the league locally?
We’re working closely with Riot and have been since the first concept of the LCO – they’re really getting behind our vision, contributing $60,000USD to our prize pool across our first two splits this year. Aside from that, the LCO really is its own league, and something we have the opportunity to shape ourselves. Right now, we’re focused on making sure that the league delivers the best experience possible for every Oceanic League of Legends fan, and between ESL and our partners Guinevere Capital, we certainly have the autonomy to achieve that.
The license has been granted for a significant period (3 + 3 years) allowing everyone to take a longer term approach. We feel this can become a global case study for competitive League of Legends being operated in collaboration with the teams and independently of the publisher while still remaining part of the broader League of Legends ecosystem.
With eight teams involved initially, will there be opportunities for teams to rise in the ranks and eventually earn a spot in the league, or is this more of a franchised system like the LCS?
The inaugural LCO season will be 8 teams with rights having been awarded to those teams formerly making up the OPL. While the future model is not set in stone, we won’t be introducing relegation as it’s important for the teams to have the security to be able to invest in building this league side by side with us.
What steps is ESL taking to further develop League of Legends talent in Oceania?
As a broader group we are looking at player and coaching development pathways and the aim is to ensure the various amateur levels of play can feed into the professional system. Details of a Tier 2 competition will be released later in the year.
How involved is Riot in deciding things like league structure, or how teams from your league will be involved on the global stage?
The structure of the league was part of the original negotiations and agreement with Riot. We have a lot of independence with how we run our league, although have been working closely with Riot on a number of key pieces. For us, having a team from the LCO qualify through to the Mid-Season Invitational and Worlds this year is fantastic – we want to highlight our strong OCE League of Legends talent on the global stage, and it’s our collaboration with Riot that allows our region to have these sorts of opportunities.
Aside from a few IEM events, ESL has not hosted many events in Australia. With this league now in play, will that be changing once COVID subsides?
(laughs) Actually, in 2019 before COVID hit, we hosted an average of one event every couple of weeks! Talking about stadium-level events, we usually host two each year, IEM and the Melbourne Esports Open, which have been impacted by the ongoing global health situation. We love hosting events and having the ability to bring fans memorable, live experiences, and look forward to the opportunity to in the future.
What steps will the league take to deal with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic?
Here in Australia and New Zealand where our broadcasts and games will be operated from, we are fortunate to have governments that deal with ongoing pandemics and provide relevant health guidelines and information, which we will of course follow.
What goes into the decision to stick with League of Legends, despite the developer moving away from Oceania as opposed to supporting another MOBA that may receive more active support from the developer?
Although the previous OPL is no longer operated, Riot Games are providing fantastic levels of support to the LCO. This year, the LCO will have a total prize pool of $60,000USD supplied by Riot Games, who we are also working with closely on many other aspects of the league. Without Riot’s support, the LCO wouldn’t exist as it does, so we’re very lucky to have the level of support that is here currently. We see it as pivoting into a new collaborative model and there are certainly advantages to separating some functions from the core publisher while their support remains in others.
How much inspiration will the new Oceanic league take from existing leagues like the LPL, LEC, CBLoL, and LCS in terms of branding and marketing?
We want the LCO to be fun, casual, and speak in the same language as our audience – that’s what we’ve seen a lot of leagues around the world move towards as well. We’re not trying to create a stiff, ‘sports broadcast’ vibe, we want every broadcast to be fun, interactive, and play to the strengths of the region, and can’t wait to show fans what we’ve got in store.