Today I want to talk about ANX success, what it means for them, what Riot should take away from this year worlds and what can be done in the future to improve to competition in LoL.
ANX came into the 2016 LoL World Championship as a Pool 3 from an IWC-Region. They were drawn into group A, which consisted of ANX, CLG, ROX, G2. At best, ANX was considered to be an underdog with a 1-game-upset potential. However, they completely turned it around, going 4-2 in their group and becoming the first team to qualify for the quarterfinals. They lost a tiebreaker for the 1st place versus ROX and advanced as #2 of group A. In the quarterfinals they had to face H2K, which placed #1 in group C, and lost 3-0.
They showed clear weaknesses and though it may look like a total smash, ANX left the tournament with their heads held up high and a proud path of success.
What did ANX achieve?
If you only take a look on the tournament itself, ANX is just a team that beat their opponents and thus, rightfully, advanced to the next round where they lost and got kicked out of the tournament. But if you look at the context ANX isn’t just another top 8 competitor, they are way more:
- They are the first IWC-Team to advance to top 8
- They are the first IWC-Team to beat a Korean team
- They are the first IWC-Team to beat NA back to back
- They are the best IWC-Team from an international standpoint. Since they have just been reformed this may, they have an impressive upwards trend and international record.
- They are the first IWC-Team to have a positive W:L record in groups
You could probably come up with more achievements, but the ones given above are, in my opinion, some of the most significant.
What does the success mean?
I will divide this part into three different ones and shortly evaluate them individually.
General success: By advancing to the quarters, ANX not only earns more exposure for the players and their brand to get sponsorship attention, but also gain access to a bigger piece of the price pool. However, this is a factor for every team that advances from groups.
Success of an IWC: IWC where to this point considered to be “free”-games for everyone else in their groups. If you look at any group draw reaction video from a team that gets an IWC-Team in their group you can at least see two or three smirks on the players/coaches faces. And, honestly, expect for PAINs last years performance, until now it is an understandable reaction. But, with INTZ taking a game of China’s #1 seed and ANX advancing, other organisations now have to take IWCs into much stronger consideration.
Up to this year IWC had the problem to be not taken seriously by many integrated, big organisations. An example for this year is the lack of scrim partners and thus possible preparation for the IWC. Past “disrespect” is shown in lack of strategies, clear non-preparation when facing an IWC-Team and the pure underestimation of those teams. There are many games during any LoL worlds that underline this argument (e.g. Alliance vs. Kabum, CLG vs. pain etc.)
ANX success will massively increase the interest in the qualification tournaments from IWC-teams.Not only are they showing a potential of interest by a better playstyle, but also by displaying likable personalities (i.e. ANX Likkrit, whose twitter exploded after week one), which might attract other/new sponsors.
ANX also presented a good macro play-style, out-rotating many other teams and displaying a huge amount of skill in the respective lanes. This only goes to show the effort IWC-Teams put in their practice (if they get some) and how much they work on increasing their regions reputation.
Possible changes by Riot: If IWC continue to succeed and outclass other regions, it is very possible for Riot to reconsider the amount of international events and their formats. Many players and viewers dislike the current format since the region itself is trying to separate themselves from BO1s, the world championship still uses them for their group stage.
Now, we all know that BO1 aren’t representative at all and one bad day can cost you the whole tournament life. Having a losers bracket (e.g. #2 vs. #3 fight for a spot in the quarterfinals where the winner faces the #1), more participants/more groups or upgrading the BO1s to BO2s or BO3s seems very considerable and it should be, since the world championship wants to display the best average of skill a team can bring to a tournament.
Making that dependent on one day or one failure makes it look a bit harsh, when you also take into consideration that there are so few international events in league of legends. This doesn’t grant for a good overview of the competitiveness of each region.
Monetization: After some back and forth between riot and orgs/owners in the past, riot decided to step up their sponsorship game and allowing more sponsors itself in the scene, as well as more ways for sponsors to participate in Riot’s organisation and events. With the IWC stepping up this year, it opens up the gates to have more money invested in their separate, regional leagues. Giving IWC-teams a higher chance to have full-time players, a better management and simply more resources that close the gap to other regions.
More internationals tournaments and different formats. ANX put the IWC in a whole new light, making them a considerable region for sponsors and more exposure in general. They lead the growth in strength of IWC and have many people reconsider the importance of international events. They push the view of the growing industry of Esports and the importance of progression within the scene. Only the future will show if there is a legitimate way of introducing more wildcards in the scene.