League of Legends Reality Show “The Next” shows potential

On July 27, Riot Korea revealed its new show LoL The Next (stylized LoL THE NEXT). The show is created in a Reality Show format aimed at entertaining league fans in the path to discovering the next Korean League of Legends superstar.

League of Legends Reality Show "The Next" shows great potential

© Riot Games

The concept

The show will be a competitive audition program centered on finding unknown talents in the South Korean League of Legends (LoL) scene. Participants must be at least Diamond 1 on the Korean server to apply. During the eleven-day period that applications were open, nearly one thousand players applied. After review and interviews, 40 players will now appear as contestants on LoL The Next.

The 40 contestants’ goal is to be among the ten final players selected to be on one of the two five-player teams. These two teams will then compete in the final episode of the seven-episode series on the grand stage at LoL Park, the venue for the League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK). The winner of that match will receive 50 million Korean won (~42 thousand USD) and a special, yet-unrevealed prize.

The six episodes leading up to that finale will consist of the scouting and selection process. This is likely the main draw of LoL The Next: the two teams will be headed by two “mentors” each. These four mentors are legendary retired players in the LoL scene who played crucial parts in Korean LoL history.

They are:

Jae-wan “Wolf” Lee (4 LCK championships, 2 MSI championships, 2 Worlds championships)
Jong-in “Pray” Kim (5 LCK championships, MSI finalist, Worlds semifinalist)
Won-seok “PawN” Heo (1 LCK championship, 2 LPL championships, 1 Worlds championship)
Gyeong-hwan “MaRin” Jang (2 LCK championships, MSI finalist, 1 Worlds championship)

What does The Next Do for LoL Fans

The Next is an interesting new direction for esports content. There are many LoL esports-focused podcasts (LCS’ The Dive, LEC’s EUphoria, LCK’s Pog State) as well as shorter weekly list shows (LCS’ This or That, LoL Esports’ The Penta).

The Next is on a new level that takes full advantage of the production resources available to a major esports broadcaster like Riot Korea. Compared to the other shows which are more rooted in radio or Internet entertainment models, The Next is fully in the vein of upscale reality television. It will be interesting to see how the general esports audience responds to this type of content.

The vicarious drama of seeing unknowns competing for the opportunity to play on the LoL Park stage is surely appealing to fans, similar to mainstream audition shows like America’s Got Talent. The main appeal, though, lies with the mentors.

Promotional materials heavily featured Wolf, MaRin, PawN and Pray. These retired players still command great respect from fans, and they are the main draw for the show.

The Next shows a new possibility for retired greats. In essence, it combines the most common careers for retired players (streamer, coach, or broadcast talent). They function as the main draw of a show by demonstrating their gameplay knowledge and experience on a big-budget production.

It is appropriate for this type of reality broadcast to debut in South Korea. Not only does it have a rich grassroots player base to draw contestants from, but the region’s retired players are household names for LoL fans around the world.

The downside of hosting this in Korea is that international fans won’t get to see it. The official broadcasts are only in Korean with no subtitle options. The live broadcast is on familiar platforms like YouTube and Twitch but at unfavorable times for people outside of the KR time zone. It is even more inconvenient for international fans as the videos of the episodes are on unfamiliar Korean sites like AfreecaTV.

The Next Episode 1 Recap

The first episode of LoL The Next begins with a quick explanation of the show’s concept and goals. It’s evident that The Next will have sleek editing and presentation on par with television broadcasts. It transitions quickly to a quick montage showing the interviews that whittled down the applicants to a final 40. These 40 players (eight for each position in the game) then stand on the LoL Park stage they hope to compete on.

Several competitors such Hyeon-joon “Oner” Moon or Jin-seong “Ophelia” Baek are currently Academy players for LCK teams. T1, SANDBOX Gaming, and Gen.G have representatives competing in LoL Next.

With the contestants introduced, the mentors then make their dramatic appearance to starry-eyed applause. MariN and Pray will mentor one team while Wolf and PawN will mentor the other.

The contestants then meet with the four mentors in groups, decided by in-game position. This segment takes the majority of the episode’s runtime as the various contestants are given opportunities to shine.

T1 alumnus and streamer Wolf bonds with current T1 Academy players like jungler Jung-hyeon “King” Kim. The surprise contestant here is Ho-jin “Hojin” Lee, a former teammate of PraY on KOO Tigers who retired in 2015. Their interactions are appropriately awkward.

The first twist then comes after the mentor-player interviews. An elimination mission that will cut half of the contestants, bringing their number down to 20. The mentors randomly determine through a draw that the junglers will act as team captains. The contestants quickly draft themselves into eight teams. Unsurprisingly, the captains go for the Academy players first.

Once the teams are all formed, the episode ends with a cliffhanger on what the next week will bring. The preview promises to reveal the contestants’ in-game ranks: something which the captains didn’t know when they were drafting their teams.

The first episode of The Next is competently put-together and a promising start for the series. The next episode will at last feature League of Legends gameplay and is worth checking out for viewers who can understand Korean.

LoL The Next broadcasts new episodes every Sunday on the LCK channels on YouTube, Twitch, Naver, AfreecaTV, wavve, and jump VR. Highlights are available after each episode on the YouTube channel.

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