Riot Korea Reportedly Finalizes List of LCK Franchising Teams
A new report from OSEN claims that Riot Korea has decided on the final 10 teams that will comprise the League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK) franchising moving forward. The teams are exactly the same as the ones we’ve seen in the league previously, with one notable exception: SaelHaeOne Prince has been eliminated from the league and replaced with newcomers HyFresh Blade.
This should come as no surprise. SeolHaePrince finished at the bottom of the table in last summer split, with an abysmal 1-17 record. It appears that Riot Korea has more faith in the team at HyFresh Blade than the example SHP was able to put forward.
While the team list is finalized, many of the sponsor-less teams are expected to pick up title sponsors. We already know of at least one. Team Dynamics was acquired by Nongshim and are scheduled to announce their name change at the conclusion of the World Championship on October 31.
Riot is expected to officially confirm the report shortly after the conclusion of Worlds. This should come as a banner moment should Damwon Gaming manage to bring home the crown.
What Teams Will Be in the LCK in 2021?
The following teams will comprise the LCK heading into the 2021 franchising season and beyond. As noted before these names are not final at this point, but the organizations behind them are.
- Sandbox Gaming
- Afreeca Freecs
- Damwon Gaming
- KT Rolster
- Team Dynamics
- Hanwha Life Esports
- HyFresh Blade
Damwon Gaming are the current Worlds challengers facing off against LPL’s SN Gaming in the finals this Saturday at 3 AM. Gen G Esports went out in the quarterfinals, losing to last year’s runners-up G2 Esports. DRX went out in the quarterfinals after being knocked out by Damwon Gaming, 3-0. The LCK had the best success rate of any region in this year’s Worlds contest, with all three of their representatives making it past the group stage. In stark contrast, North America’s LCS had no teams make it past the group stage, while Europe’s LEC sent two teams, G2 Esports and Fnatic, forward.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of this year was the lack of T1 and Faker at Worlds, but they’ll be looking to redeem themselves in a renewed and fully franchised LCK system next year.
The Good and the Bad of Franchising the LCK
Franchising, as has been proven in the LCS and LEC, gives teams the flexibility to experiment with their rosters without fear of losing their slots. This is ultimately a good thing for GMs and team owners alike, who can acquire sponsors and the like, guaranteeing that they’ll be getting viewership for years, not months, to come.
However, this does take away some of the excitement inherent in a relegation system, where any team, even if they were on top at one time, could lose their spot after a poor performance. This meant that teams had to be extra sharp and dedicate themselves to doing the best they possibly could just to keep the lights on. It’s this extra dedication that has produced some of the most legendary players and rosters in League of Legends history.
Of course, that’s not to say that the LCK will automatically become less competitive as a result of this team franchising process. There are examples of both success and failure after switching to a franchised model. For failure, one only has to look at the LCS and their repeated exists before the group stage or early in the knockout stage. This is due to a number of factors, but they’ve become less competitive every year since franchising began, likely due to a lack of talent scouting, keeping aging talent around for their social media following, and more.
On the other hand, the LEC has dramatically increased their placings since going to franchising. The success of teams like Fnatic and G2 Esports prove that top teams can keep doing well, even with franchising, and are able to experiment more with their rosters without fearing losing their position in the league. G2 are the best example of this when they swapped Caps and Perkz at AD Carry and Mid lane – G2 might not have been able to do this in a normal relegation model for fear that it wouldn’t work out and the team potentially lose massive amounts of exposure through falling out of the league.
The benefits to the League itself are obvious, though – despite losing some of the excitement around relegation and new teams and faces entering the league, they are able to fully market teams and players to not only fans but long term sponsors as well. This means that, for example, if the league wants to heavily promote a player or team by doing content around them, they will have this content as legacy material, and not risk these entities from falling out of the league and the League’s resources for having promoted them.
The franchised LCK has not yet announced the dates for next year’s competition, or if they will be further impacted by the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic.