Should Riot make Worlds Playoffs a double-elimination bracket?
The International and the League of Legends World Championships share many similarities. They are both of the pinnacle of the competitive season in each title, and they both crown the year’s champion. However, a key difference between the two lies in their competition format, prize funds and broadcast approach. The International is more forgiving to teams with its double-elimination bracket, and the group stage is way more entertaining the LoL Worlds Play-Ins.
Should Riot games tweak the approach in the way they do Worlds?
A look at both Tournament Formats
The International is Dota 2’s top tournament of the year, with all participants qualifying by topping 1 of the 12 pro circuit events, or through 1 of 6 major regional qualifying events. The 18 teams are then split into 2 groups, playing in a Bo2 round robin format. The top four teams advance to the Upper bracket of the main event, while a single bottom team is eliminated and the remaining teams compete in the lower bracket of the main event.
In a sense, only the worst team at the event gets eliminated early on in the event. The rest still have a chance to move onward. The International also consistently hosts the biggest prize pools, with the 2021 TI event having a stunning $40,000,000.
The League of Legends World Championships represents the apex of competitive League of Legends. Participants in LoL worlds has consistently grown as Riot aims to get more regional representation worldwide. The competition currently entails teams from 11 different regions. By forcing representation from around the world, Riot has divided Worlds into 3 different stages, Play-in, Groups and Main event. Play-in Stage hosts 10 teams primarily from the minor regions, along with the last qualifying seeds of the major regions. The top 4 teams then advance to the group stage, where the 16 teams will then be split into 4 groups. Only the top 2 in each group will advance to the main event.
What can LoL Worlds learn from The International?
With both events having some form of a qualifying phase, we are already getting the best teams from each region at both events. The League of Legends World Championships has an extra stage called Play-ins, serving as a screening to remove the poorest performing teams. This while increasing the level of competition in the Group stage compared to TI does not adequately give teams enough play time or diversity to showcase their skill.
With usually only two groups of four teams in a double-round robin format, you cannot scope how good a team is especially compared to the remaining play-in teams or the entire competitive lot. TI does the job a lot better by having two groups of nine teams and only eliminating the worst team at the end.
We do need to keep note that due to its additional stage, the League of Legends World Championships already lasts a month compared to The International that is only 10 days. Having a double-elimination bracket in LoL may cause burn-out in the teams and for viewers to lose interest due to the length of the event. This is especially considering the viewership of the LoL Worlds play-ins already being low compared to the main event.
If we rid ourselves of Play-Ins entirely and have a Group Stage that will determine a bracket, we could both cut down the length of the event and have a more enticing experience overall.
Finally, the format for the main event in LoL Worlds is a single elimination bracket, with all matches being a best of 5. In comparison, while TI has a double elimination bracket, the lower bracket matches are best of 1, while all other matches are best of 3 with the exception of the grand finals as a best of 5. This means matches in TI have less consistency, thus, needing an additional bracket in comparison to LoL who already has high consistency with all best of 5 matches.
Talk about money
While Riot also does also Crowd fund its Worlds prize pool through the sale of skins and other in-game items, the prize pool is much lower than TI. Top Dota 2 professional players primarily rely on their prizepool winnings to “make it big”, compared to League of Legends, where players are on average paid much higher due to Riot’s minimum pay policies.
With the stakes being ever so high in TI, having a double elimination bracket increases consistency and gives good teams a second chance if they have an off-day.
Should LoL have a double elimination bracket?
Both systems have their pros and cons. Currently, introducing a double elimination bracket in LoL Worlds would not make sense given the higher number of games teams play which already grant consistency. However, to increase the consistency, Riot should either forgo play-ins for a larger group stage, or look to increase the number of games players in the semi-finals and finals to a best of seven. This would also boost viewership time for these games given the already high viewership for them.
There definitely needs to be a change in the way Playoffs are played in League of Legends. How Riot fixes this is up for debate.