LCK Moves to Franchising System for 2021 Season
With almost every other league having already franchised or planning to do so by next year, the LCK, League of Legends top flight in Korea has held out as one of the last bastions of promotion/relegation in the top tier competitive league of legends landscape.
With teams like Griffin, the many sponsored Tigers, and Damwon having come up through the system and made huge names for themselves in the league, establishing a precedent of strong rookie talent and amateur orgs getting the chance to prove themselves and climb to the top flight of one of LoL’s strongest regions. That time will soon be ending, however, as Riot Korea has officially announced that the LCK will be entering franchising starting next year in the 2021 season.
End of an Era
According to the official announcement website, the decision came as a result of Riot Korea’s pondering over the future of the league and how to keep it successful long term, both for teams/players and fans.
The developer discussed the decision in a statement. “With its unparalleled success, LCK has been a dominant force to be reckoned with. But this is all in the past. Now we must prepare for the next step as a challenger. We have thought long and hard about what the future of LCK should look like. We have concluded that LCK must be a stage where players, teams, and fans can fulfill their dreams not only for a short period, but for generations. We will adopt the long-term partnership model in LCK in 2021. And we will bring back the glory.”
Further discussing the planned changes below the statement, Riot noted that the LCK franchising system would have teams go through an application process to enter into the partnership structure. Accepted teams get to take part in a revenue-sharing program that will see revenue generated from things such as merch sales and media rights deals split amongst the teams and Riot themselves.
Players in the league will also see a rise in their income as Riot plans to set the minimum league salary to 60,000,000 Korean Won (about $48,500 according to Korizon), up 40,000,000 from the 20,000,000 Won (KRW) that the minimum wage currently sits at. Lastly, much like the LCS in North America, the Challenger League will be reorganized into an Academy League that all LCK teams will be required to field a roster for developing talent in, a new gateway for rookies looking to make it as pro players.
Frustration Amongst Orgs
While there has been a lot of hype around the LCK franchising announcement, not everyone is happy about the change. According to an article from Korean news site Kmib, more than half of the teams currently in the league have expressed frustration with the decision, with most of them feeling overwhelmed by the franchising fees and concerned about profit generation.
Korea is a small country, with only 51,470,000 people living in the country, significantly smaller than other major regions like EU, NA, and China. While esports is huge in the country, and especially League of Legends, the small population will mean the league will have less of a local revenue base to capitalize on. Some analysts have expressed concern that the league may not have enough viable applicants to field the 10 teams the league wants to start franchising with.
With applications opening on May 8, and likely an announcement of accepted franchises following Worlds later this year, it may be a bit before we see if Riot’s plans for the league will attract the attention from orgs and sponsors they believe it will draw. We’ll continue to keep you updated as the situation develops.