At PAX, we caught up with the team at Riot Games, to talk about League of Legends' future in the region, and a possible high school initiative.
At PAX Australia this year, I had the chance to speak with Daniel Ringland, Community Manager for League of Legends Oceania, about the company's plans for the region. As well as a lot of interesting stuff from the professional eSports side of things, Ringland briefly spoke with me about a high school initiative that Riot was planning for Australia and New Zealand, which would see the company fostering potential eSports competitors, and of course, a better community relationship, right from the early stages.
First up, for those of you wondering just where the eSports scene in the Oceanic region came from, Ringland gave us a bit of background. Unlike gamers in America, who had the full support of the company right from the get-go, League of Legends's competitive scene in Australia arose almost entirely from community-based, grass-roots efforts.
Australians struggled through challenges such as high ping (try hitting an Alistar combo with 150ms), and massive distances (Australia is a big, BIG country, with not a lot of people filling it up), but still managed to persevere and create an eSports scene for the game, and Ringland tells me that Riot really wants to respect that perseverance. Rather than just coming in and taking over, Riot has done its best to work with those grass-roots start-ups, to provide the best possible League of Legends experience for the region.
"Before Riot came to the region, people from the community were trying to create their own eSports scene but struggling. We've chosen to include the groups that were already here laying the foundation."
And so far, at least, it seems to be successful. PAX Australia hosted the League of Legends Oceanic regional finals, and every single person at the show knew about it. The League of Legends booth was absolutely massive (the largest that PAX would allow for a single company, Ringland told me), and constantly had hundreds of people swarming it. League of Legends was, without a doubt, the most popular game of the show.
While Australia's professional players do not receive any sort of salary from Riot, Ringland does say that the company is interested in changing this, and is something to consider as the scene ramps up in future seasons.
On that, for next year, Ringland wants to grow "the participation and viewership of the eSports scene. We also want to make our region more competitive - we wanna grow the skill level of all players, and not just focus on a handful of teams." He told me of plans to give players in the Oceanic region more pathways to make it to Worlds, as right now, the only possibility is through the Wildcard tournament.
At this point, I brought up the possibility of a "Wildcard World Championship," - that is, a championship consisting of all the "Tier 2" League of Legends regions, such as Brazil, Turkey, and Oceania. Mirko Gozzo, Country Manager for Riot Games Australia, chuckled at this, and chimed in "Maybe we could think of a different name rather than 'Wildcard Tournament'?"
Lastly, Ringland spoke to me of an initiative he and the team at Riot Sydney were planning, which involved high schools in Australia. He told me that there were a lot of high school teachers who are LoL players, and of course, many, many students, so why not tap into that? He didn't go into too many specifics, but the idea of a kind of amateur, high school-only League of Legends league, like high school football, is certainly what it sounds like. I'll have more information for you on this initiative as it develops.
So from adversity, Australia and New Zealand's League of Legends scene has risen, and with the help of Ringland and the rest of the Riot Games crew, should hopefully continue to rise.