League of Legends World Championship
Introduction to the League of Legends World Championship
The League of Legends World Championship is an annual tournament hosted by Riot Games. It is the culminating event in the season, and decides the ultimate global League of Legends Champion.
The first LoL Worlds was staged back in 2011 at DreamHack in Sweden. Team Fnatic were the first ever League of Legends Worlds Champions. Since then, six different teams earned the trophy, with SKT T1 as the only team holding a triple crown.
In Season 2, Riot Games commissioned the winner’s trophy (Summoner’s Cup), which weighs in at over 70 pounds. Lifting the Summoner’s Cup is the ultimate achievement for all aspiring League players and athletes. Additionally, the World Championship offers a massive prize pool exceeding $10,000,000 USD.
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As the League of Legends scene and player base grew bigger, especially with a mounting interest in Esports, the League of Legends Championship followed. Compared to its first iteration with only eight teams, primarily from EU or NA, the 2020 LoL Worlds is set to include twenty-two teams from all over the world. These steady increase in teams has forced Riot Games to extend the tournament format several times.
The World Championship currently consists of three competitive stages: Play-Ins, Group Stage and Knockouts.
Both the Play-In and Group Stage are played in a round-robin format group format. The knockout stage is played in playoffs format featuring best of 5 elimination series.
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League of Legends World Championship History
Starting in 2011, the tournament has seen several changes over the years. The prize money, host destinations, competing teams and ruleset are constantly adapted and tweaked as the tournament grows in size. Since 2014, Riot Games has released an official event song to pair up with their Worlds event. For an overview of the LoL Worlds Songs head over to the following article.
The ever-increasing demand for League of Legends action only helps to ensure that the event will continue to grow in the future. Let’s now review all previous League of Legends World Championship seasons.
Riot Season 1 Championship
The First League of Legends World Championship: The start of the League of Legends era
The inaugural World Championship, known as the Season 1 Championship, took place between 18-21 June 2011 at DreamHack Summer in Jonkoping, Sweden. With a total prize pool of $100,000, the tournament attracted eight teams from North America, South-East Asia and Europe. Over 1.6 million viewers watched the live stream for the event, including a peak figure of over 210,000 during the latter stages. It was team Fnatic that came away with the win, after facing Against All Authority in the final.
Some of the current League of Legends top teams were involved in the tournament. The likes of Counter Logic Gaming and Team SoloMid were present, paired with famous esports organizations like Epik Gaming, Gamed!de, Team Pacific and Xan.
Having not suffered a single defeat in the upper bracket, Fnatic were the favorites heading into the final. Team aAa were been defeated by Fnatic in the opening stages, and the final was a step to far for the French organisation. Fnatic took home a winning prize pool of $50,000, with team SoloMid finishing in third position.
Season 2 World Championship
After the success of Season 1, Riot Games announced that $5 million would be paid out during the Season 2 Championship. Riot’s partners like the IGN Pro League got $2 million, whilst another $2 million went to Riot’s Season 2 qualifiers. The remaining funds would be given to the organizers who hosted some of the independent LoL tournaments during the calendar year.
The Season 2 Championship was staged in October 2012 in Los Angeles, and once again acted as the final competition of the League of Legends season. The tournament was comprised of twelve teams, four more compared to that of Season 1. Korean and Chinese teams participated for the first time.
At the time, the event offered a generous prize pool of $2 million, the biggest in the whole of esports at the time. The grand final took place at the University of Southern California on October 13, in front of over 10,000 fans. Over 8 million esports fans watched on from around the world throughout the competition, including 1.1 million during the grand final.
Taiwanese team, Taipei Assassins, claimed victory, defeating South Korean’s Azubu Frost. A 3-1 victory handed the Taiwanese team $1 million in prize money, with Moscow Five finishing in third place after their playoff win over CLG Europe.
The tournament will be remembered for all the controversy surrounding it. Event format, cheating and technical problems plagued the event from the get go. Teams such as reigning champions Fnatic and Azubu Blaze missed out on the tournament, instead choosing to compete at the IGN Pro League 5. Additionally, Azubu Frost player, Jang Gun Woong was caught cheating by viewing the big screen at the Galen Center, with his team receiving a $30,000 fine as a result.
Season 3 World Championship
SK Telecom T1’s First World Championship
The Season 3 League of Legends World Championship grand finals were held on October 4th 2013 at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. A total of 14 of League of Legends top teams were made part of the event. Korean organisation SK Telecom T1 were crowned champions, taking home both the Summoner’s Cup and $1 million USD in prize money. Other competing teams included Fnatic, Lemondogs, OMG, Royal Club and Gambit Gaming.
The 2013 World Championship final was viewed by over 32 million people, a dramatic increase from the 2012 finals. The tickets for this final sold out in just one hour.
As with the Season 2 Championship, Riot Games chose to seed the four teams that were victorious in their respective regional competitions, while other participants battled it out in a group stage. The top two teams in groups made it through to the next round. The second round consisted of the winners of regional playoffs taking on the winners of group stages in a best-of-three elimination match.
While SK Telecom and Royal Club finished as winners and runners-up respectively, it was NaJin Black Sword and Fnatic who would end up in third and fourth. Through SKT’s victory over RYL, started a rivalry between the two teams for years to come. It even laid the foundation for the intense competition between the two major regions, Korea and China.
SK Telecom T1 remain one of the best League of Legends teams to this day, with Faker still signed to this day, continuing to be one of the, if not the best player in the world.
2014 World Championship
League of Legends World Championship got renamed
Riot Games chose to rebrand the competition 2014, changing the name to the League of Legends World Championship. Unlike previous events, the 2014 tournament was held in various different regions, before the Grand Finals were held in Seoul, South Korea.
Sixteen qualifying teams made it through by winning a major professional league, such as the Mid-Season Invitational, or a regional qualifying tournament. Following this, a sixteen-team round-robin was played out, before the remaining eight teams took part in the knockout stage of the competition.
The competition was once again dominated by Asian teams, with Samsung Galaxy White claiming their first ever LoL World Championships. Once again the runner-up team was the Chinese StarHorn Royal Club. The semi-finals were all Korean and Chinese affairs, with Samsung Galaxy Blue and Oh My God coming third and fourth respectively. A record 40,000 spectators attended the grand finals, along with around 280 million views on television and through online streaming platforms like Youtube and Twitch.
There was more controversy in 2014, with SK Gaming player, Dennis “Svenskeren” Johnsen causing a storm by acting in a racially insensitive manner whilst playing on the Taiwanese server. The Dane was fined $2,500 and had also been suspended for his team’s opening three matches of the tournament.
The 2014 League of Legends World Championship saw the gap widen between the western (EU/NA) and eastern (CN/KR) teams. Europe and North America would need years to reach the strength of the eastern regions. Once again, a $2 million USD prize pool was shared among all participating teams.
2015 World Championship
League of Legends World Championship return to Europe
For the first time since its inauguration in 2011, the LoL Worlds schedule returned to Europe in 2014. London, Paris, Brussels and Berlin were selected as hosts for different stages of the competition. International wildcards Bangkok Titans and paIN Gaming joined the usual suspects.
Despite many expecting a strong challenge from 2011 winners Fnatic, following their 18-0 record in the EU LCS Summer Split, as well as battling it out with SKT T1 over five games at the Mid-Season Invitational, the European team would have to settle for third place. China’s best also fell short this year. North American representatives Team SoloMid finished way off as well.
SK Telecom T1 who secured their second world title, defeating their South-Korean rivals KOO Tigers in the final. The final is estimated to have achieved viewing figures of 36 million.
By this event, controversy and technical issues have become a staple of every Worlds Championship. Cloud9’s Hai Lam was fined $500 for making an offensive hand gesture to an opponent during the group stage. Additionally, an in-game bug occurred involving Fnatic’s Kim Ui-Jin, meaning their matches could not be completed. Riot Games also decided to disable the “Gragas” character, from the rest of the tournament, along with both “Lux” and “Ziggs”.
2016 World Championship
The 2016 League of Legends World Championship was the sixth iteration of the LoL Worlds series, held between September 29th and October 29th across the United States. Sixteen teams once again qualified for the tournament.
The South-Korean super team, SKT, once again claimed the trophy. Having the likes of “Faker” and “Bengi” in their roster, carried their team to a hard fought victory against rivals Samsung Galaxy in the final. Eventually coming out 3-2 winners, Faker was named tournament MVP, with the team also receiving over $2.6 million in prize money.
SKT T1 became the first 3-time World Champions with their victory.
Record viewing figures
The final was followed by over 43 million people across the world, with its success thought to be vital in prompting those in charge of the Los Angeles bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic Games to include an esports presentation in their pitch. The 2016 World Championships offered the biggest prize pool in League of Legends history, with only “The International” from the world of Dota 2 able to compete with such figures at the time.
2017 World Championship
After the success of the 2016 event, the LoL Worlds 2017 had been held in four different cities across China, one of the strongest regions in competitive League of Legends. This had also been a strategic decision considering the major growth of League of Legends within China, giving hope to fans their home teams would be finally able to take out a League of Legends World Championship. With SK Telecom T1 going for a third successive title, coupled with the fact that the South-Korean’s hadalready won this year’s Mid-Season Invitational, the LoL Worlds 2017 promised to be an explosive affair, with the home crowd bidding to end their dominance in the competition. Unfortunately for the Chinese, the Koreans once again topped the leaderboards, with Samsung Galaxy and SK Telecom taking first and second place respectively.
New Format for the LoL World Championship
The event had added the in-play stage this year, due to the growth of the tournament extending to 24 teams, representing 13 professional League of Legends leagues. The 2017 LoL Worlds had been held between September 23rd and November 4th. Teams from Brazil, China, Europe, Japan, Korea, Latin America, North America, Oceania, South-East Asia, Taiwan and Turkey made up the competing teams, expectantly, containing a majority of the best players from their respective regions.
The finals had been set to be held in the famous Bird’s Nest Stadium in Beijing, a former Olympic venue. While the viewership for the play-in stage had been lower than the rest of the tournament, this was expected, and was continued to be received well by fans. Riot Games had once again increased the prize money on offer to successful teams, with a base $2,250,000 plus crowd funding contributions from Worlds themed purchases from the in-game store. The final prize pool reached $4,940,000 USD, a worthy end to the 2017 season.
2018 World Championships
The 2018 League of Legends World Championship had been solely hosted in Korea throughout various venues around the country. The play-in stage started in Korea’s capital, Seoul. It then moved to Busan for the group stage and quarter-finals. Unusually, the semi-finals were hosted in the Gwangju Women’s University Universiade Gymnasium. The finals ended in Incheon with the largest venue of all, carrying a capacity of 50000 people.
Following the 2017 LoL Worlds format, a play-in stage was included prior to the main event, with 24 teams around the world invited in total. The teams competed for a share of approximately $6,450,000 USD, the highest ever prize pool in League of Legends history to date.
Having always been the strongest region, the Korean teams claimed both first and second place in the 2017 League of Legends World Championships. This led to the 2018 League of Legends Worlds event heading to Korea. This also allowed the Korean teams who qualified from the LCK to directly enter the main group stage, skipping the play-in stage that some other region’s teams had to compete in.
Despite a fairly strong group stage performance, the Korean teams, to the shock of many, were knocked out in the quarter-finals. This paved the way for either North America or Europe to finally enter the finals (for the first time since season 1) and stand a chance to take out the championships.
Has Korea lost their top spot?
Evidently, Korea were not the strongest region in 2018. The region showed signs of weakening with SKT constantly dropping the ball and even failing to quality for the League of Legends World champion For the first time since 2016, a Korean team failed to claim the top spot at the Mid-Season Invitationals. That said, KT Rolster had poor match making, pitted up against Invictus Gaming in the quarter-finals, losing 2-3, while Invictus went on the win the championship.
2019 Season World Championship
Words returned to Europe stopping by Germany for Play-Ins & Group stage, moving to Spain for the Quarter-finals and Semi-finals, and ending in Paris, France for the Finals.
The prize pool was set at $2,250,000 (base). Through the sale of LoL Worlds passes and special League of Legends World Championship skins, the prize pool was set to increase, yet to date we don’t know the exact amount.
No changes to the format were made for Worlds 2019. 24 teams from across the world, including; China, Korea, Europe, North America, Taiwan / Hong Kong / Macao, Vietnam, Brazil, CIS, Japan, Latin America, Oceania, Southeast Asia and Turkey made their way to the event. Given that Invictus Gaming took out the 2018 League of Legends World championship, all of China’s qualifying teams bypassed the play-in stage.
With both the European and Korean teams looking strong, Worlds 2019 was the most competitive event to date. G2 Esports who took out the 2019 Mid-season Invitationals, made their way all the way to the finals to face off against the LPL Champions FunPlus Phoenix.
The entire hopes of Europe were in G2 claiming the trophy on home turf, but in the end, FunPlus won the final with a clean 3-0 sweep over the EU hopefuls.
2020 Season World Championship
The 2020 World Championship was envisioned as a traveling roadshow throughout China. The finals were to take place at the Pudong Football Stadium in Shanghai. However, due to a growing global crisis the event was downsized to only a Shanghai event. All of the players had to go through an extensive quarantine period and medical checks before arriving in China.
Additionally, the original format featuring 24 teams had to be tweaked due to the Vietnamese teams cancelling their participation. Adjustments were made to the Play-in and Group Stage, most notably promoting all Korean teams straight into the Group Stage.
The LoL Worlds Championship 2020 is currently ongoing.