In the last couple of years, it became quite apparent that the future of esports is in the franchising. It's something we saw in Overwatch and Call of Duty, and as the esports ecosystem is evolving, other big esports titles will transition to this model.
Riot Games started this process two years ago with their flagship MOBA title League of Legends. The transition was first completed with LPL(China) and LCS(North America) back in 2018, and last year we saw Europian LEC going through the same process. The last remaining non-franchise league is South Korean LCK, but now the time has come for franchising to come into the best League of Legends leagues in the history of the game, and, arguably, one of the strongest esports competitions ever.
Riot posted on official road-map for this process. Called The Future of LCK, it outlines the process and steps needed to happen for this transition and how can organisations participate in it.
"With its unparalleled success, LCK has been a dominant force to be reckoned with. But this is all in the past. Now we must prepare for the next step as a challenger. We have thought long and hard about what the future of LCK should look like. We have concluded that LCK must be a stage where players, teams, and fans can fulfil their dreams
not only for a short period, but for generations," says the announcement.
The first change is that promotion and relegation series will be held for the last time after the 2020 LCK Spring Split, and after that - they are a part of history. One of the key things that Riot is repeating in this announcement is that "relegation is a thing of past". They want to point out that with the new system, neither fans nor teams will need to worry about them getting out of the league. That will lead to more financial stability for organisations, a better focus for players, and security for fans that their favourite teams will be there in years to come, even saying that they want that to be something passed from parents to children, and so on.
LoL Challengers Korea will also be discontinued and replaced with Academy League. All participating LCK 2021 teams will be obligated to have Academy teams, where they will nourish young talents for the future. Riot is stressing out that they will support current players from LoL Challengers Korea and try to secure them smooth transition in the new system.
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One thing that stands out is that the minimum salary for players will be 60 million South Korean Won, which is roughly $49,000, which is higher than in any other professional sports league in South Korea. We think that is reasonable, considering how popular LCK is on both Korea and in the rest of the world.
This "Long-term partnership model," how Riots call it, will go through several phases during the next few months, in order for Riot to select the best possible candidates who will ensure that everything Riot envisioned will be fulfilled.