Esports Are Marketing as Well as a Sport

LCS Summer Finals Day-2
LCS Summer Finals Day-2 / Dave Reginek/Getty Images

There is little to no argument that League of Legends is the currently the leader in esports. With 13 professional leagues, three annual international events, and a World Championship that sells out arenas used for past FIFA World Cups, there is no denying League's presence in global competitive competition.

Recently, Riot CEO Nicolo Laurent talked about League's up-and-coming status as not only an esport, but a sport in it's own right, up there with the ranks of FIFA, the Olympics, and leagues like the NBA or MLB. However, there was one hump that Laurent would like to get over before taking professional League to the next level.

"You cannot see eSports as marketing," said Laurent in an interview with the eSports observer. "We view it as a business. We want to make sure everyone has something to win."

While this sentiment is understandable, as esports is seen by naysayers as a complicated and expensive commercial for whichever is being played, it is accepting defeat just a little too early. Instead of moving away from esports as a marketing tool, developers and professional league executives should use this as an advantage to grow their game commercially and competitively.

While League looks to regulate their game in the same way FIFA, the NBA, or the MLB do, there is and will always be one inherent difference; the LCS owns the sport in which they regulate. While FIFA may be the most prominent governing body for international football around the world, they don't OWN the sport, it's rules, or every league in which it's played. For most esports, outside of competitions like ESL or MLG, all major circuits are run by the developers of the games that are being played; Overwatch League by Blizzard, The International (Dota 2) by Valve, and the LCS by Riot.

As the operations of the sport are run entirely in-house, there are a few disadvantages; competitions can seem like commercials, rules are managed by one singular body, and the variety of competition may seem relatively low. However, one singular body allows players all around the world to play each other in the exact same game, with a clear path to the top ranks of competitive play. Games like League, Hearthstone, and Overwatch thrive on this massive player base, and do an excellent job at making it feel like you can reach the world championships just by grinding it out in your living room.