Here’s why Riot put LCS players in “closets” instead of on-stage

zeyzal interview lcs

LCS players vented their frustration with Riot Games over their abysmal setup for official League of Legends esports matches and discussed what they see as preferential treatment in favor of Valorant after being pulled from the stage.

Despite the LCS being the de-facto top-level LoL circuit in North America, the LCS has a fractured and controversial history. Throughout its lifetime, the LCS saw several rebranding efforts and team sales, which even saw the LCS Players Association commit to a walkout in 2023 after Riot’s controversial decision to end financial support for the North American Challengers League.

Now, Riot is challenging LCS players’ patience once again after moving them to a backroom instead of a stage. This has reignited some of the simmering frustration among pro players and shined a light on the company’s treatment of LoL esports in comparison to Valorant.

Why are the LCS players not allowed on stage?

Riot moved LCS players off-stage to host the Valorant Champions Tour playoffs instead.

In an interview with Shopify Rebellion’s Tristan “Zeyzal” Stidam, the esports player joked that he felt good about his “first win in a storage closet.” Zeyzal then took a jab at Riot

“You take any win you can get when you’re not a Valorant player,” Zeyzal said. 

The VCT Americas playoffs were hosted in the same venue as the LCS; the Riot Games Arena in Los Angeles. For longtime fans of League of Legends, the writing was on the wall when it comes to Riot dialing back its emphasis on the LCS.

The LCS also announced only eight teams would compete in the 2024 LCS instead of the previous 10. TSM sold its franchise slot to Shopify Rebellion while Golden Guardians and Evil Geniuses exited the LCS. Riot seemingly tried to drum up enthusiasm by installing a new fan-favorite commissioner, but after this came the cancelation of LCS roadshows and an overhaul of the on-air content.

None of this sits well with esports purists, and it doesn’t seem to sit well with the actual pro players either. LCS players being taken off-stage adds another chapter to what has been a worrying decline in the visibility of what is said to be a “major region.”

Will Riot kill the LCS in 2024?

There is no indication that Riot will end the LCS, but the string of controversies and lack of focus on the esports league is a cause for concern.

Riot Games likely wants to put its esports efforts toward the more popular Valorant scene, especially in North America. The VCT Americas and Pacific events kick-off peaked with 589,000 viewers while the LCS Spring 2024’s viewership peaked at just over 192,000 viewers, only one-third of the audience Valorant pulled.

Fans hope the tide changes for the LCS in the future, but it’s quite dire at the moment. 

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Written by Gab Hernandez

Gab Hernandez has a particular love for video games that give players control over the narrative direction, such as Divinity: Original Sin 2 and Disco Elysium. Gab spends just as much time playing games as they do gushing about them online to anyone who will listen. Their work has also been seen on TheGamer, Gfinity, and Wargamer, and you can follow them on Twitter / X at @HardlyWorkinGab.

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