Riot announces that the 2024 Mid-Season Invitational will be held in Chengdu, with the winning team qualifying directly for the Global Finals of the same year. What are your thoughts on this change in the tournament format?

Global Event AdjustmentsOne of our goals for global events has always been to enhance competitiveness. In 2023, we made adjustments to the formats of the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) and the World Championship, removing games that didn’t impact the final outcome. In 2024, we aim to further enhance the competitiveness of MSI and create a tighter connection between MSI and the World Championship.This season, we will allocate three base World Championship slots for the LEC, LCS, LCK, and LPL each. PCS and VCS will have two World Championship slots each, while LLA and CBLOL will each have one World Championship slot. In addition to these base slot allocations, we will introduce more ways for teams and regions to showcase their strength and earn additional World Championship slots based on their performance in MSI.For the first time in history, the champion of MSI will directly qualify for the World Championship without occupying a base slot in their respective region. The region with the second-best performance in MSI will also earn an extra World Championship slot. To secure their spot in the World Championship ahead of time, this team must reach the playoffs of their respective region’s summer split (LEC teams need to reach the LEC’s summer finals).Using the 2023 MSI as an example, JDG will automatically secure a World Championship slot, and LPL will have four teams competing in the World Championship. The region with the second-best performance, which was LCK in the 2023 MSI, will also receive an additional World Championship slot, resulting in four LCK teams in the World Championship as well.We hope these adjustments will continue to increase the competitiveness of the events and create a closer connection between the two most important League of Legends events: MSI and the World Championship.2024 MSI and World Championship LocationsThe 2024 MSI will take place in Chengdu, China from May 1st to May 19th. This marks the first time we are hosting a League of Legends global event in this vibrant city. As the event approaches, we will release more information about schedules, ticketing, and more.Last year, we announced that the World Championship would return to Europe, with the finals taking place at the iconic O2 Arena in London, United Kingdom. Today, we’re here to announce the locations for other stages of the event!The World Championship will kick off in the newly renovated Riot Games Esports Stadium in Berlin, Germany, hosting the play-in stage and the Swiss round. After that, we’ll head to the Adidas Sport Arena in Paris, France, for the quarter-finals and semi-finals.The 2024 World Championship will be held from September 25th to November 2nd. We will provide more event details in future updates.

Summary of Changes in International LoL Esports Structure

To put it simply, the changes are:

  1. This year, both the LCK and LPL will have only three basic spots in the World Championship, similar to LCS and LEC. PCS and VCS will each have two, while LLA and CBLOL will each have one.
  2. The team that wins the MSI will earn an additional direct spot to the World Championship, but that team must qualify for their regional summer playoffs.
  3. The region with the second-best performance at MSI will also gain an additional spot for the World Championship.

The officials themselves exemplify:

“Taking the 2023 Mid-Season Invitational as an example, JDG will automatically obtain a spot in the World Championship, and the LPL will have four teams entering the World Championship. The region with the second-best performance — the LCK in the 2023 Mid-Season Invitational — will also obtain an additional 2023 World Championship spot, resulting in four teams from the LCK entering the World Championship.”

This statement reveals two pieces of information.

First, “the region with the second-best performance” does not equal the “runner-up region”. In the 2023 MSI, JDG were champions and BLG were runners-up, but the “region with the second-best performance” was still considered the LCK. Therefore, two additional spots will not be attributed to the same region; it will be a 4-4 split, not 5-3.

Second, if the MSI champion also wins their regional summer playoff, then the additional spot will be inherited by another team within the region. In 2023, JDG won both the MSI and the summer playoff, so according to the officials' example, “the LPL will have four teams entering the World Championship”. This means if the MSI spot is not needed by the team, it will be allocated within the team’s region.

We can reasonably speculate that if the team winning the MSI fails to qualify for the summer playoffs, the additional spot they earned might also cascade to the whole region. This is inferred from Riot’s example, which simply mentions that the LPL will have four teams in the World Championship based solely on JDG’s MSI win, not on the 2023 LPL summer playoffs.

However, there are still some questions, such as how the additional MSI champion spot is seeded.

Potentially, consider JDG’s example. Suppose JDG wins the MSI but does not win the summer playoffs, and their annual World Championship points are not the highest. In this case, will JDG need to play in the regional qualifier for seeding? Or will they directly qualify as the MSI champion? And if they don’t play in the qualifier, what seed will JDG and the qualifier-advanced teams be?

Further detailed explanations are awaited for these queries.

Personal Opinion: The core issue of the LoL esports system at this stage is the desire for innovation and change.

The current core value of MSI is to engage the audience during the spring break, ensuring that a significant number of viewers do not leave. But no matter the format, champion rewards, or team size, it falls short compared to the World Championship. With everyone focusing on the World Championship and considering it as the sole value, MSI’s uniqueness is gradually diminishing.

Years ago, there were intercontinental tournaments bringing a refreshing atmosphere of “comprehensive external competition and regional cooperation,” something unachievable in the club-centric World Championship and MSI. However, Riot canceled the intercontinental tournaments in 2020, stating they posed significant challenges to their annual event planning both regionally and globally.

Thus, instead of introducing new major events, Riot has been vigorously innovating within MSI, such as trying the Swiss format, adjusting the number of teams from LPL and LCK, and linking it to World Championship spots for this year. However, as MSI cannot match the scale or the exclusive skin of the World Championship, Riot is trying to innovate within its limits.

The effectiveness is debatable.

It’s worth noting that these data only account for international viewership numbers.

Compared to the World Championship, from 2021-2023, the peak viewership of the World Championship has risen by millions each year, reaching over six million in 2023.

Meanwhile, MSI’s peak viewership has also increased over these three years but at a much weaker rate. Earlier, it was only half of the World Championship viewership, but in 2023, it was only a third. More viewers care about the World Championship finals than the MSI finals.

This issue is challenging to address. I understand Riot’s intention for innovation, but the impact of the direct qualification to the World Championship will need further observation.

The measures will at least increase the attention to MSI and enhance the significance of winning MSI for regions and teams. However, I worry that in future discussions on forums or social media, the perceived value of the MSI championship might decrease further, akin to a regional qualifier championship.

Implications of MSI Results on World Championship Spots

The performance at MSI is now directly correlated with the spots in the World Championship, making MSI a critical precursor to the event.

The champions of the Mid-Season Invitational will directly advance to the World Championship, and this spot will not consume any of the base spots of their region (with both LPL and LCK having a base of 3). The region that finishes second-best at the MSI will also gain an additional spot in the World Championship.

From my personal perspective, this arrangement is not particularly favorable. On one hand, this rule isn’t very stimulating as there’s no significant change from the existing rules. On the other hand, winning the MSI championship isn’t entirely beneficial for the region.

The lack of stimulation comes from the “number of spots” not being differential; regardless of win or lose, the first and second-best regions will both acquire 4 spots in the World Championship. This doesn’t offer a strong positive incentive for regional competition.

Looking at recent years' MSI performances, the LPL and LCK are still the strongest contenders for this fourth “additional spot”. However, if the first-place region at MSI were awarded 5 spots in the World Championship, and the second-place only 3, MSI would undoubtedly become a fiercely contested battlefield.

The reason I say the arrangement isn’t entirely favorable for the champion region is because of the changes in game patches and player roster between the spring and summer seasons, which directly affect the condition of the MSI winning team. A team might be strong in the spring but falter in the summer.

If a team in poor form during the summer occupies a fixed World Championship spot for their region, it’s detrimental to regional competition. If they perform poorly at the global stage, becoming a “feeder”, it’s a loss in both reputation and competition, as the tale of RNG in 2022 reminds us starkly.

If the reward of one event is entirely tied to the qualification of another, it objectively proves that the event itself does not possess enough value. Only such a setting can underscore the necessity of the competition.

Especially with the addition of third-party events like the Esports World Cup this year, the importance of becoming MSI champions has diminished further, becoming more redundant and less critical, except perhaps for providing the players with more international experience. It doesn’t impact the players' personal honors or overall evaluation significantly.

As of now, Riot is very aware of MSI’s current situation and is attempting to increase its necessity. However, they face many issues, particularly two critical aspects of the rule changes that have not been detailed:

First is about the constraints on personnel changes for the champion team. What happens if a situation like neighboring AR and XG occurs? How should the team’s qualification be treated, or can a team replace all five players from the spring to the summer season for the World Championship?

Second is about the seeding order. Since the first round of the Swiss format is strictly based on seeding for drawing and side selection, the seed ranking of the MSI champion directly qualifying for the World Championship is definitely a consideration.

The Evolving Role of MSI in LoL Esports

It’s unclear who MSI champions have offended, but it was once believed that MSI was nearly equivalent to the World Championship in terms of prestige.

The champion team of MSI was expected to receive rewards not inferior to those of the World Championship, such as the much-discussed exclusive skins. However, Riot, in an attempt to forge a stronger link between MSI and the World Championship, has effectively turned the MSI championship into a mere entry ticket for the latter.

This not only fails to place MSI on equal footing with the World Championship but officially announces that the MSI champion is a step below the World Championship.

Aside from event adjustments, there are other interesting announcements for 2024:

For example, the 2024 MSI will be held in Chengdu, China. Counting League of Legends, Chengdu will have hosted the finals of at least five esports events from 2023 to 2024. Listed in order of time, they are:

  1. Naraka: Bladepoint World Championship (2023.12.16-12.17) at Chengdu Financial City Performing Arts Center
  2. CrossFire Stars (CFS) World Championship Finals (2023.12.8-12.10) at High-Tech Sports Center
  3. Identity V Autumn Tournament Finals (2023.12.29-2024.1.1) at Sichuan Province Gymnasium
  4. Honor of Kings World Champion Cup Finals (2023.12.30) at Fenghuang Mountain Sports Park
  5. League of Legends MSI (2024.5.1-5.19) with location yet to be announced

Finally, there’s an interesting development concerning the Hall of Fame:

“To commemorate players who have made lasting impacts on the game, the event, and the entire community, and to celebrate their legends, we are excited to launch the League of Legends Esports Hall of Fame. Many professional players are eligible for our exclusive Hall of Fame. Therefore, we have assembled an independent voting panel of veterans and experts from various regions in the esports industry to vote for our first inductee. Each year, we will organize online and offline celebration events for the new members of the Hall of Fame, commemorating their historic careers! The votes are still being collected, and we will share more information in the coming months, so stay tuned.”

Although the official statement is “the votes are still being collected,” given Faker’s previous comments at a T1 event, it’s almost certain that he will be the one:

— “For those who want the Ahri skin, I think there will be good news next year.” — “I shouldn’t have told you this, please keep it a secret.”

Sigh…The first Hall of Fame player

It’s like an open-book quiz

Hey, I’ve arrived in Chengdu, so now I can check it out in person.

But the change where the champion team directly advances is not too bad, because so far, no MSI champion has missed Worlds.

The closest call was probably RNG in 2022? They had to go through the play-ins back then.

Is this considered as LOL making a move against the NBA?

Perhaps starting next year, NBA mid-season champions will also have a direct entry to the playoffs or play-in tournament?

I used to think that Chongqing would vigorously develop esports.

But as the development continued, there was not a single ripple.

The Feeling About This Tournament Format

The feeling I get from this tournament format is that

Riot Games is out of ideas.

In recent years, Riot Games has been changing the tournament format in an attempt to increase viewership.

But the results have been minimal.

In the end, they have no other choice

but to rely on the popularity of the World Championship to boost the MSI (Mid-Season Invitational).

But it doesn’t seem to help much.

This game is becoming unplayable, so why bother watching the matches?

Certainly, basketball also has many viewers who don’t play the sport themselves but watch the games.

But the difference is that in basketball, even if you haven’t played for a year or two, you can still pick it up anytime.

The three-point line is still the same, the three-second rule is still the same, shooting is still shooting, dribbling is still dribbling, and the basics are still applicable, with no major rule changes.

In League of Legends, if you don’t play for just three or four months, you can’t keep up with the updates, and the knowledge you were familiar with becomes worthless.

This is the problem with this game, there are no returning customers, once you stop playing, you can’t pick it up again.

Evaluating the Changes in Tournament Format and Their Impact on MSI

My assessment is to adopt a wait-and-see approach, and I encourage Riot Games' esports department, which has been committed to making the games more exciting in recent years. Change is a good thing.

In the past couple of years, Riot Games has been experimenting with different tournament formats. The early issues of unexciting matches and extreme luck of the draw in the Worlds Series were the reasons behind their urgent need for change.

For instance, in the early days, when powerhouse teams like SKT and RNG were grouped together in the group stage, it was dubbed the “Group of Death.” Teams from European and North American regions placed in such groups had almost no chance of advancing, and they were likely to lose every single best-of-one (BO1) match in the group stage from the beginning to the end.

The introduction of the Swiss system format, however, has been relatively reasonable, even though it still leaves room for extreme luck of the draw (as seen in this year’s Swiss system draw, with WBG and KT having drastically different fates).

KT this year has proven that as long as a team is strong, they can advance through the Swiss system. Gone are the days of losing the first three BO1 matches in the group stage and having no hope, as the following two wins wouldn’t make a difference if you couldn’t advance.

The Swiss system turns every match into a do-or-die situation. If you want to advance, you must win more BO1 matches. Losing two BO1 matches sends you to the elimination BO3 match against another team with the same record. Win, and you advance; lose, and you go home.

However, MSI has become somewhat awkward now that it has become a subsidiary event. Its prestige and viewership may decrease (there are no skins for MSI champions, and the MSI event generally receives less attention compared to Worlds; even when players like TheShy have won multiple MSI championships, they are not highly regarded by most people). Even if you are the first team in the first half of the year, the patch changes and hero nerfs in the second half may make it difficult for the MSI-winning teams to maintain their dominance until Worlds.

With the addition of this regional championship, securing a spot in Worlds is still very favorable.

Winning MSI has gained more importance and added suspense to Worlds, as most teams that win the Spring Split can at least maintain their performance and reach the playoffs in the Summer Split without much difficulty. However, the problem of the defending champions performing poorly in the playoffs in the second half of the year and not being able to rely on the advantage of Spring Split titles in the bubble playoffs to enter Worlds has been largely resolved.

Adding Value to MSI Champions: Skins as Rewards

I still hold the same view: give MSI champion teams a skin, just one skin will suffice.

The concept of seating is rather superficial and uninteresting. If Riot Games truly wants to enhance the prestige of MSI, they should reward the championship teams with skins. Select a champion that best represents the team’s identity, create a skin, and sell it. This way, there will be excitement, rewards, and value, all without overshadowing the viewership and prestige of Worlds. Is it really that difficult?

Moreover, creating one additional skin per year shouldn’t be a problem. If you can create skins for the top 10 players, why not create one for the MSI champion team?

So, this year’s MSI is just like that, it has potential, but it lacks flavor, making it a pity to watch.

Suddenly remembered that RNG deserves a lot of credit for LPL’s success, securing three World Championship slots and producing several top-tier skins.

Changes in Tournament Format Elevate MSI’s Significance

The most significant change in this tournament format is making MSI a precursor to the World Championship (S Worlds). MSI champions now have a direct ticket to the S Worlds, reducing the exclusivity of the MSI title. The MSI champions now have the privilege of securing a spot in the S Worlds, potentially intensifying the competition at MSI. Let’s see what Riot Games officials have to say about it:

For the first time in history, the champion team of the Mid-Season Invitational will directly advance to the global finals, without occupying a regional base slot. The region with the second-best performance in MSI will also earn an additional slot for the global finals. To ensure early qualification for the teams in the global finals, they must reach the playoffs of their respective summer splits (LEC teams need to reach the LEC’s final stage).

The most notable impact of this format change will be seen in the viewership, prestige, and competitiveness of MSI, as winning MSI now means a direct entry to S Worlds. This change ensures that MSI champions remain in the spotlight throughout the year. There won’t be a situation like RNG, who, after winning MSI, had to compete for the fourth seed in the summer split.

After all, the most crucial event throughout the year is undoubtedly S Worlds, making MSI the stepping stone to it.

On the other hand, MSI’s viewership has always lagged behind that of S Worlds. This reform should, to some extent, increase the audience’s interest in MSI. The heightened level of competition will undoubtedly draw more attention from the audiences of both LPL and LCK, the two major regions participating in MSI.

The fact that MSI will be hosted in Chengdu next year is quite surprising, and I hope that this MSI will allow global viewers to witness the enthusiasm from the Sichuan and Chongqing regions.

After reading the title and the introduction for quite some time, I still don’t know what kind of competition this is. It’s really unacceptable not to provide any information.

Is Chengdu really this fun? Are all the events happening there worth attending? Seeking advice.