LoL Worlds Viewership – a look back at past years

With LoL Worlds 2023 around the corner, let’s take a look at the evolution of viewership numbers over the past decade and how it became a worldwide phenomenon.

lol worlds viewership

Image Credits | Lance Skundrich/Riot Games

LoL Worlds Viewership – Where everything began

Worlds is the annual world championship hosted by Riot Games for League of Legends (LoL). Teams compete for the title and prove they are the best in the world during each given season.

Throughout the years, esports and LoL gained tremendous popularity, making it among the most watched and followed esports tournaments globally. Before the start of the 2023 Worlds Championship, let’s rewind back to the first edition of the tournament and see how much LoL Worlds viewership has grown over the last 12 years. Please bear in mind that the numbers will only consider Western viewership (unless otherwise noted).

2011 – The good start

  • Peak viewership: 210,069
  • Average viewership: ND
  • Hours Watched: ND

The first edition of Worlds was held in June 2011 at Dreamhack Summer 2011. Back then, only 8 teams from 3 regions (Europe, North America, Southeast Asia) participated in the event. According to the official numbers released by Riot Games, viewership was already high from the start: 1.6 million viewers watched the streaming broadcast, with a peak of 210,069 simultaneous viewers in the final match between Fnatic and Against All Authority, showing how much potential LoL had more than 12 years ago.

Read more: LoL Worlds 2023 Predictions

2012 – The real test?

  • Peak viewership: 1.1 million
  • Average viewership: ND
  • Hours Watched: ND

After a successful start with the first edition, the Season 2 World Championship would’ve determined the growth and how much esports could really explode on a global scale. It also boasted one of the largest prize pools in the history of esports with $2 million (of which $1 million went to the winners).

Throughout the tournament, over 8 million viewers tuned in to the Season 2 World Championship broadcast, with a maximum of 1.1 million concurrent viewers during the grand final between South Korea’s Azubu Frost and Taipei Assassins. Season 2 Worlds broke viewership records at the time, making it the most-watched event until that point.

2013 – The boom

  • Peak viewership: 8.5 million (global)
  • Average viewership: ND
  • Hours Watched: ND

Season 3 Worlds was where things really started taking off for LoL and Riot Games. Not only did they shatter the previous records for any esports event, but viewership numbers were well above those of all other esports titles, including Dota 2 and Starcraft.

Image Credits | Marv Watson/Riot Games 

According to Riot Games, the 2013 World Championship final was watched over Twitch by over 32 million people, with a peak of 8.5 million concurrent views. Bear in mind that these numbers are global, meaning that the Chinese audience, which usually takes a large part of the audience, is included. With T1 taking the trophy, not only did it kick off the era of Korean domination, but it ultimately started the golden era for LoL.

2014 – Average time goes up

  • Peak viewership: 11.2 million
  • Average viewership: ND
  • Hours Watched: ND

According to Riot Games, 27 million people watched the 2014 League of Legends World Championship finals between Samsung Galaxy White and Star Horn Royal Club (without considering Chinese viewership). While the number was down from the 32 million of the previous year, the number of peak concurrent viewers went up substantially, and fans watched for a longer amount of time.

Peak concurrent viewership in 2014 hit 11.2 million, 2.5 million more than in 2013, and the average viewing time also grew from 42 minutes in 2013 to 67 minutes.

2015 – Doubling the total number of hours watched

  • Peak viewership: 14 million
  • Average viewership: ND
  • Hours Watched: 360 million

2015 was yet another successful year, greatly increasing the total number of peak concurrent viewers, reaching 14 million during the finals between SKT and KOO Tigers in Berlin’s Mercedes-Benz Arena. The unique viewer count hit a total of 36 million, breaking the previous record set and marking a major increase from 2014’s 27 million unique viewers.

But the most impressive number was the number of hours watched: more than 360 million, compared to 2014’s 194 million. While that was also caused by the slower meta which dragged out matches, it still goes to show that fans are willing to watch the matches, which totaled 73 games during the 2015 edition.

Read more: LoL Pick'Em Predictions

2016 – Average viewership down

  • Peak viewership: 1,620,065
  • Average viewership: 671,311
  • Hours Watched: 22,936,435

Thanks to stats site Esportscharts, we were able to get more detailed viewership numbers from the 2016 edition of the World Championship. Unfortunately, the numbers do not take Chinese viewership into consideration, which represents a major percentage of the total number of viewers.

Image Credits: LoL Esports/Riot Games

In an era where T1 was dominating and became a three-time world champion, the team led by Faker was seen by over 1.6 million people in the decisive match against Samsung Galaxy. Average viewership wasn’t that impressive, only reaching 670k, showing that the West still had to catch up on the esports phenomenon. It’s worth noting that many people only tuned in for the big matches, as only the semifinals and finals had over 1 million viewers.

2017 – The effect of play-ins

  • Peak viewership: 2,102,206
  • Average viewership: 572,944
  • Hours Watched: 73,623,300

2017 was the first year we saw the implementation of the play-in stage, bringing the total number of participants from 16 to 24 teams. By adding more teams from the wild card regions, and therefore adding more matches, the number of hours watched rose dramatically: more than 73 million hours compared to 2016’s 22 million hours.

That being said, having less popular teams play inevitably hurt the average viewership, going down by around 100k. Considering all factors, though, it was still an extremely positive year in terms of LoL viewership growth: peak concurrent viewers broke 2.1 million in the Worlds finals between T1 and SSG, and 5 matches went over the 1 million viewer threshold.

2018 – The rise of China

  • Peak viewership: 2,050,475
  • Average viewership: 651,178
  • Hours Watched: 82,428,260

Worlds 2018 was a revolutionary year for LoL since it marked the end of Korean domination on international stages and the rise of China and the LPL. According to Esportscharts, the final only reached a little over 2 million in peak viewership, going down from the previous year. This, however, excluded Chinese viewers. It was later revealed that China had nearly 200 million unique viewers tuning in during the Worlds final to see Invictus Gaming lift the trophy and become the first-ever LPL team to get that achievement. The number is astonishing: if we consider China has around 1.4 billion people, it means that at least one out of every seven people watched the series, numbers that the Western world has never witnessed.

Read more: LoL Worlds 2023 Event Pass, Missions and drop rewards

2019 – G2’s incredible run

  • Peak viewership: 3,985,787
  • Average viewership: 1,042,341
  • Hours Watched: 136,980,921

If 2018 was the turning point for the LPL, Worlds 2019 was an incredible year for G2 and European esports in general. Not only was the world championship hosted across different locations in Europe, but we also got to see a great boost in both peak and average viewership. The number of hours watched also went up tremendously, breaking the 100 million threshold and reaching 136 million.

fpx g2 worlds 2019

Image Credits | Riot Games

It was also the first time that more than 5 matches had registered more than 2 million viewers, with the T1 and G2’s semifinal series peaking at nearly 4 million people.

2020 – The pandemic hits… positively

  • Peak viewership: 3,882,252
  • Average viewership: 1,113,702
  • Hours Watched: 139,862,354

After 2019, the entire world had to face the Covid-19 pandemic, but esports was one of the few trends that was actually helped by it. Thanks to digitalization and easy access to streaming platforms, Worlds 2020 registered growing numbers in the West despite a lower peak viewership compared to 2019.

The average viewership went over 1.1 million, maintaining a similar number of hours watched and having numerous matches above 2 million peak viewers. All of this was achieved without the presence of T1, who failed to make it to Worlds and has always been a key presence in increasing interest and overall viewership.

2021 – The ultimate battle between China and Korea

  • Peak viewership: 4,018,728
  • Average viewership: 1,298,219
  • Hours Watched: 174,826,793

Worlds 2021 was the first edition to achieve more than 4 million peak viewers, reached in the finals between EDG and DK in the ultimate showdown to determine which is the stronger region. Based on the numbers given by Esportscharts, average viewership rose up again and the number of hours watched also increased by more than 35 million.

According to a statement from Riot Games and Stream Hatchet, a live-streaming analytics organization, the five-game series between DWG KIA and Edward Gaming had 73,860,742 peak concurrent viewers and an average minute audience of 30,604,255 worldwide, including Chinese streaming services.

T1, who missed out on Worlds the previous year, was a key factor in boosting the Western viewership: 3 out of the five most-watched matches (in terms of peak concurrent viewers) had them participating.

Read also: LoL Patch 13.19 - Worlds Patch!

2022 – Korea back to the top

  • Peak viewership: 5,147,701
  • Average viewership: 987,437
  • Hours Watched: 141,943,967

Worlds 2022 set a new benchmark for peak viewership in the history of the game. Concurrent peak viewers surpassed the 5 million threshold, reaching 5.14 million in total, and outperforming the 2021 peak number by over 1 million.

That said, average viewership and hours watched decreased compared to previous years, mainly due to the people returning to pre-pandemic lifestyles. In 2020 and 2021, numbers were slightly inflated, but it’s still a net positive compared to the previous editions. Unfortunately, we haven’t been able to find accurate numbers including Chinese viewership.

t1 drx lol worlds 2022

Image Credits | @lolesports

The peak viewership record was generated by the incredible final fans were going to witness: T1 and Faker were fighting for their fourth title, while Deft was chasing glory for its first world championship. In a legendary 5-game series, with constant back and forth, DRX stood out to become champions.

LoL Worlds Viewership 2023 Predictions

So what will happen this year? Will we expect World viewership to rise or is LoL going into a downward trajectory? By looking at the past history and the general factors that usually determine a successful World Championship, we might have one of the most exciting championships in history:

  • The LPL vs. LCK rivalry;
  • Chinese teams are favored to win the trophy after MSI dominance;
  • T1 and Faker are at Worlds with the tournament being held in Korea;
  • Western teams looking to redeem themselves.

All these elements will definitely drive the overall numbers up, but it will eventually be up to the storylines and which matches fans will be able to watch. The new format should generate more interest in the group stage, which could potentially drive up average viewership at the end of the tournament.

With that in mind, though, we would probably need to see high-stake key matches between fan-favorite teams to break last year’s peak viewership records. Teams like G2 and T1 will drive Western viewership, while Chinese viewership is likely going to be driven by JDG and BLG. Regardless, LoL will have Korea as its main protagonist for this year’s Worlds, which means that their viewership numbers are likely going to reach new peaks in the country.

Worlds officially starts on October 10th with a new play-in stage format. As the minor regions will be fighting to determine who advances, it will be critical to monitor the overall viewership to see if Riot made a successful change.

Read more: Worlds 2023 Tickets - How to get your Worlds tickets
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