League of Legends is the most popular esports discipline in the history. The annual World Championship can rightly be called the biggest holiday of electronic sports, as it attracts the attention of millions of spectators. The last Worlds for the first time in history gathered more than 100 million viewers online — it is an unprecedented moment for esports.
World Championship traditionally changes every year not only the place, but also the country of holding. Last year the championship was held in four US cities, while Worlds was held in China, specifically: play-in and group stages in Wuhan, the quarterfinals in Guazhou, the semifinals in Shanghai, and the grandiose final in Beijing.
From the very beginning it became clear that this tournament will turn everything upside down. Last year’s Worlds gathered just over 28 million people at the amount of viewer’s peak in the Grand Final. At 2017 tournament broke the record in the very first match between the Chinese Team WE and the Mexicans Lyon Gaming during the preliminary stage. Riot Games made the right choice — World Championship in China attracted the attention of fans of esports and gaming from the Middle Kingdom.
The amount of Chinese viewers increased significantly with each stage of the tournament. Radical growth occurred during the final day of the group stage, after that there were always more than 30 million viewers online at all platforms. Chinese began to be interested in all participants, however, of course, they were more sympathetic to their national team. Chinese teams World Elite and Royal Never Give Up defeated the western teams at quarterfinals and then started their fateful fight against the Koreans.
The followers of Confucius lost in semifinals and final match appeared to be only between Koran teams. That is why we can observe a great decrease of viewers at final day — from 106 million to 75 million. The match between SK Telecom T1 and Royal Never Give Up will remembered in history as the first esports match with more than 100 million viewers online. The fight was fierce, teams played all five possible maps in the best of 5 series. For the first time a 100 millionth breach was broken on the fourth map, after what the record was repeated in the fifth map, reaching 106 million viewers.
The Korean final, a match between Samsung Galaxy and SK Telecom T1, was viewed online by 75 million people at the peak. If only at least one Chinese team reached the final, we would observe a new esports record. All kidding aside, it could be more than 150 million viewers online. Unfortunately, we will never know it for sure.
Phenomenal growth in number of Chinese viewers is a huge achievement of Riot Games. However, we shouldn't forget about the Western audience — it is no less important, although there are no tens millions of viewers. In 2016 spectators not from China "woke up" only in the semifinals, mostly because British team H2K-Gaming got there. Next year insane activity began during the quarterfinals, especially in the match between Misfits and SK Telecom T1.
Commentators, analysts and viewers were ready to call this match "the greatest battle in the history of the Worlds". Many people were upset that the Western team lost to the eternal Korean champions, while we feared a huge drop in the number of Western viewers in the semifinals. Fortunately, this did not happen. Apparently, the Western community is already accustomed to cheer for the "beautiful game" after so many years of domination of Asian professionals. Final was looked by a record amount of non-Chinese viewers — more than two million people at the peak.
2017 World Championship demonstrated phenomenal growth of esports — the amount of viewers increased almost fourfold! At this rate, the industry will catch up and overtake all popular disciplines of real sports, like football. We are ready for new records!