After a long delay, China’s League of Legends Pro League returned.
The threat of the coronavirus had the LPL postponed at the start of the Spring Split, leaving many to wonder if they would ever catch up to the LEC and LCS. The 17 teams, including 2019 World Champion FunPlus Phoenix, had all attempted to travel back home after the announcement and it seemed like the LPL probably wouldn’t begin any time soon.
On February 26, the LPL held an unofficial scrim league. Five teams took part: Suning, eStar, JD Gaming, Top Esports, and Victory Five. They streamed on the official LPL site, but viewers couldn’t help but feel a lack of hype over the best-of-three matches because of the lack of audience and not being able to see the whole team playing together on stage.
Then the LPL finally announced that it would be returning on March 9. But instead of comepting at an area, the entire season would be held online. While many LPL fans are just relieved to see their teams competing again, others are quite skeptical about how Riot has handled their return to the competition.
The next six weeks will be an intense and potentially tiring grind for both the players and the audience. There will be three best-of-three matches every day until April 19, all played from their team’s headquarters with a referee unless they are in a quarantined province.
“There will likely be some unforeseen technical difficulties, but we will try our best to deal with them in a timely fashion,” the LPL said in a statement. “We expect to continue to bring everyone the exciting and action-packed gameplay that the LPL has been known for.”
While issues with connection, ping, and internet are all of great concern for an online tournament, there are other problems that many people foresee with the LPL’s return. The main one is the insane amount of pressure the LPL will have playing up to nine games a day.
The LCS and LEC play best-of-one matches during the regular season of the spring and summer splits. This ensures that the teams can compete twice a week without feeling burnt out or stressed, while also allowing audiences to watch an entire day’s worth of action in under five hours.
The LPL’s decision to play best-of-three matches in the past was met with mixed reactions. Some felt that the other leagues should follow their example, since Bo3 prepared the teams more for international tournaments and gave them a better chance of fair results. But others felt that it was just too long. With three games being played each day now that the LPL is attemping to play catch up, the Bo3 format is looking even more stressful.
The 2020 LPL Spring Split has aired for about 37 hours thus far. Their average viewers for the English broadcast are around 22,000. The average viewers for the LCS right now is over 174,000. It’s almost 216,000 for the LEC. There are, of course, many factors that go into these figures, such as having no translated broadcast for their first week back, but one would think that LPL fans would be so hungry to watch their teams finally compete that they’d be tuning in for those few hours they’ve gotten so far.
Still, Chinese fans do seem to be tuning in domestically as before.
It might be in the LPL’s best interest to switch to best-of-one matches temporarily. That’s just one solution people have brought up during discussions of the LPL’s return. Another idea is to implement a break day between the many games being played.
Chinese teams in esports have commonly grinded scrims harder than most regions. The Overwatch League’s Shanghai Dragons were notorious for not only their failures in the inagural season, but also their exhausting schedules. Their manager had come forward and admitted to working them up to 12 hours per day, six days per week. That didn’t sit well with fans, and the organization later came forward and apologized.
So there’s a chance the teams competing in the LPL are used to the grind and are just excited to be back to playing official games. But not having any down time might end up setting some teams up to for failure. It’s hard to say if these are their true performances, thanks to the exhausting grinding, possible internet issues, and the awkward break at the start of the season.
The Overwatch League changed their schedule going into their second season after noticing the amount of burnout and the amount of stress many teams were under. Now, teams compete in fewer games each week.
Many esports competitors retire due to exhaustion, mental health strains, or lack of motivation. It wouldn’t be surprising if many LPL competitors felt burnt out from playing so many matches so close together and it’s currently unclear what the league has implemented to support their well-being during this stressful time.
Because of how much the LPL has to do to catch up to their competitors, many fans are wondering if the Spring Split should just be done away with altogether in favor of waiting for the 2020 Summer Split. This would give teams time to refresh, scrim, and rest before the Summer Split begins.