Riot announces the 2024 Mid-Season Invitational will be held in Chengdu. The winning team will advance directly to the Global Finals. How do you evaluate the changes to this competition format?

Global Event AdjustmentsOne of our ongoing goals for global events has always been to enhance competitiveness. In 2023, we adjusted the formats of the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) and the World Championship by removing matches that didn’t impact the final results. In 2024, we aim to further enhance the competitiveness of MSI and create a closer connection between MSI and the World Championship.For this season, we will allocate three base World Championship slots for the LEC, LCS, LCK, and LPL each, while PCS and VCS will have two each, and LLA and CBLOL will each have one. In addition to these base slots, we will introduce more ways for teams and regions to showcase their strengths and earn additional World Championship slots based on their performance in MSI.For the first time ever, the champion of MSI will directly qualify for the World Championship without taking up a base slot in their respective region. The region with the second-best performance in MSI will also receive an extra World Championship slot. To secure a spot in the World Championship for their region ahead of time, this team must reach the playoffs of their respective region’s Summer Split (LEC teams need to reach the final stage of the LEC).As an example, for MSI 2023, JDG will automatically secure a World Championship slot, and LPL will have four teams qualifying for the World Championship. The second-best performing region—in this case, the LCK—will also gain an additional slot in the 2023 World Championship, resulting in four LCK teams qualifying for Worlds.We hope these adjustments will continue to increase competitiveness in our events and create a closer connection between the two most important events in League of Legends esports: MSI and the World Championship.2024 MSI and World Championship LocationsThe 2024 Mid-Season Invitational will take place from May 1st to May 19th in Chengdu, China. This marks our first time hosting a League of Legends global event in this vibrant city. As the event approaches, we will release more information on 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, UK. Today, we are excited to announce the locations for the other stages of the event!The World Championship will kick off at the newly renovated Riot Games Esports Arena in Berlin, Germany, hosting the Play-Ins and Swiss stage. Following that, we will move to the Adidas Sportshalle in Paris, France, for the quarterfinals and semifinals.The 2024 World Championship will run from September 25th to November 2nd. Stay tuned for more event updates in the future.

Changes in Esports: LCK, LPL, and the MSI Evolution

In summary, the changes include:

  1. This year, both LCK and LPL have only three basic seats for the S tournament, similar to LCS and LEC, PCS and VCS each have two, while LLA and CBLOL each have one.
  2. The champion team of MSI will obtain an additional direct entry to the S tournament, but the team must enter the summer playoffs of their region.
  3. The region with the second-best performance at MSI will also gain an additional seat for the S tournament.

As an example given by the official sources:

“In the 2023 Mid-Season Invitational, JDG will automatically obtain a spot in the World Finals, and the LPL will have four teams entering the World Finals. The region with the second-best performance in the 2023 Mid-Season Invitational, which was LCK, will also gain an additional 2023 World Finals spot, meaning LCK will also have four teams entering.”

This reveals two pieces of information.

Firstly, “the region with the second-best performance” does not equal “the runner-up region”. In the 2023 MSI, although JDG was the champion and BLG was the runner-up, LCK was still considered the second-best performing region. Therefore, two additional spots won’t be allocated to the same region; it will always be 4-4, never 5-3.

Secondly, if the MSI champion also wins the summer playoffs, then the additional spot will be inherited by another team within the region. As in 2023, JDG won both the MSI and summer playoffs, leading to the official statement that “LPL will have four teams entering the S tournament”, indicating if the extra spot from MSI is not needed by the champion team, it will go to another team in the same region.

We can reasonably speculate that if the team that wins the MSI doesn’t make it to the summer playoffs, the extra spot they earned might also be passed on to another team in the region. This is because, in the example provided, just by winning the MSI, it was indicated that LPL would have four teams entering the S tournament, not considering the summer playoffs.

However, there are still questions, such as what seed the additional MSI champion spot will be?

There might be a scenario where, taking JDG as an example, if they win the MSI but don’t win the summer playoffs or have the highest season points, whether JDG needs to play in the play-in matches to secure a seed position or directly enter as the MSI champion. And if not playing play-in matches, what seed JDG would be, and what would be the seed for the team progressing through play-in matches?

Further details are awaited on these matters.

Personal View:

The core issue with the current LOL esports system is its pursuit of novelty and change.

The MSI’s core value currently is to fill the gap during the spring break, keeping audiences engaged and preventing a mass exodus during this period. However, regardless of its format, champion rewards, or team size, it’s far from the scale of the S tournament. With everyone focusing only on the S tournament as the sole value, the uniqueness of MSI is continuously eroding.

In earlier years, there were continental tournaments, providing a fresh atmosphere of “comprehensive external competition and regional collaboration”, something that can’t be achieved in club-centric tournaments like S tournament or MSI. But in 2020, Riot canceled the continental tournaments, citing significant challenges to their annual event planning both regionally and globally.

As a result, instead of considering new major events, Riot has been focused on enhancing MSI, such as pioneering the Swiss system, two spots for LPL and LCK, and linking it with the S tournament spots this year. The problem is, MSI can’t match the scale of the S tournament or have its skins, leaving Riot to make intricate adjustments within the constraints of a “mini S tournament”.

The effectiveness of these efforts is still debatable.

Notably, this data only accounts for international viewership.

Compared to the S tournament, the peak viewership of the S tournament has increased by millions each year from 21-23, reaching over six million in ‘23.

On the other hand, MSI’s peak viewership has also grown over these three years, but only slightly, and by ‘23, it was only a third of the S tournament’s viewership. More audiences are concerned with the S tournament finals than MSI finals.

It’s a challenging issue to address, and while I understand Riot’s intent to innovate, the impact of this direct entry to the S tournament change is yet to be determined.

At the very least, these measures will likely increase attention on MSI and enhance its significance for the regions and teams involved. But I worry that in future discussions on forums about the prestige of various championships, the value of the MSI championship might diminish, becoming akin to a regional playoff championship.

Implications of MSI Results on World Championship Seating

The Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) results are now directly linked to World Championship (S tournament) seating, with MSI essentially becoming a backdrop to the S tournament.

The champion team of the Mid-Season Invitational will now advance directly to the World Finals, and this spot will not count against the base slots of their region (both LPL and LCK have a base of 3). The region with the second-best performance at MSI will also gain an additional spot for the World Finals.

From my perspective, this arrangement is not particularly favorable. On one hand, such a rule lacks significant changes and hence, isn’t very stimulating. On the other hand, it’s not entirely beneficial for the region that wins the MSI championship.

The lack of excitement stems from the “number of seats” being unvaried; regardless of the outcome, both the first and second-best regions will get 4 S tournament team slots. This doesn’t provide a strong positive incentive for inter-regional competition.

Considering the recent MSI performances, LPL and LCK are still the top contenders for this fourth “extra slot”. However, if the best region at MSI were awarded 5 S tournament slots and the second-best only 3, MSI would indeed become a much fiercer battleground.

The arrangement isn’t entirely favorable for the champion region because of the version changes between the spring and summer splits and the player roster changes, all of which directly affect the state of the MSI champion team. A team that was dominant in spring might not be as strong in summer.

Then, a team that is not in good form during the summer but still occupies a fixed World Championship slot for their region is definitely not beneficial for regional competition. If they enter the World Championship and perform poorly, it would be detrimental for both the team and the region. The story of RNG in 2022 is a stark reminder of this.

If a tournament’s rewards are entirely tied to qualification for another event, it objectively proves that the tournament itself does not have sufficient value. Such a setup is necessary only to emphasize the importance of the match.

Especially this year, with the addition of third-party events like the Esports World Cup, the MSI champion has become even less relevant and important. Beyond providing players with more international experience, it doesn’t significantly impact their personal honors or overall assessment.

Riot is aware of the current state of MSI and is trying to increase its relevance. However, there are many issues ahead, especially concerning this rule change. Two key issues have not been addressed:

First is regarding the constraints on roster changes for the champion team. What happens if a situation like AR and XG occurs, where team qualifications might need addressing, or if a team is allowed to change its entire lineup from spring to summer to compete in the World Championship?

Second is about the seeding order. Since the first round of the Swiss format is strictly based on seeding order for drawing and side selection, the seed position of the MSI champion directly advancing to the S tournament is certainly a consideration.

The Evolution and Impact of MSI Championship

Not sure who the MSI Mid-Season Invitational Championship upset, but it was once thought to be almost equivalent to the S tournament in terms of prestige. The champion team of MSI was expected to receive rewards not less than those of the S tournament, such as the much-discussed exclusive skins. However, Riot, in an attempt to forcibly link MSI with the S tournament, has turned the MSI championship essentially into an entry ticket for the S tournament. Not only does it fail to stand on equal footing, but it has also officially declared the MSI championship to be a notch below the S tournament.

Aside from event adjustments, there are some other interesting announcements for 2024. For instance, the 2024 MSI will be held in Chengdu, China. Counting League of Legends, Chengdu will have hosted at least five esports tournament finals from 2023 to 2024. Listed chronologically, they are:

  1. Naraka: Bladepoint World Championship (2023.12.16-12.17) at Chengdu Financial City Performing Arts Center
  2. CrossFire CFS World Finals (2023.12.8-12.10) at Gaoxin Sports Center
  3. Identity V Autumn Competition Finals (2023.12.29-2024.1.1) at Sichuan Provincial Gymnasium
  4. Kings of Glory World Champion Cup Finals (2023.12.30) at Phoenix Mountain Sports Park
  5. League of Legends MSI Mid-Season Invitational (2024.5.1-5.19) at a location yet to be disclosed

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

“To honor players who have made a lasting impact on the game, the event, and the entire community, and to celebrate their legendary status, we are excited to launch the League of Legends Esports Hall of Fame. Many professional players are eligible to be inducted into our exclusive Hall of Fame. Therefore, we have convened an independent voting panel of veterans and experts from various regions in the esports industry to select our first inductee. Every year, we will hold online and offline celebration events for new members of the Hall of Fame, commemorating their historic careers! Voting is currently ongoing, and we will share more information in the coming months, so stay tuned.”

Although the official statement is that “voting is still in progress,” considering Faker’s previous comments at a T1 event, it’s almost certain that Faker will be the first inductee.

  • “For those who are waiting for an Ahri skin, I think there will be good news next year.”
  • “I wasn’t supposed to tell you this, please keep it a secret.”

Sigh… The First Hall of Fame Inductee

It seems like an easy pick!

Hey, I’ve arrived in Chengdu, now I can go see it in person.

But the champions directly qualifying is a change.

Well, it’s 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 that year.

Is this considered an offering from LOL to the NBA?

Possibly, starting next year, NBA midseason champions may also have a direct entry into the playoffs or play-in tournament.

I used to think that Chongqing would vigorously promote esports.

But as it continued to develop, there was not a single ripple.

The Impact of Changing Formats on Esports Enthusiasts

The recent changes in tournament formats by Riot Games have left me with the impression that the game is losing its appeal. Riot Games has been attempting to increase viewership by altering tournament structures, but the results have been underwhelming. This desperation is evident as they try to replicate the success of the World Championship (S Worlds) with the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI), yet it doesn’t seem to work.

In contrast, traditional sports like basketball have a consistent set of rules and fundamentals that remain unchanged over time. Even if you haven’t played basketball in a while, you can easily pick it up again because the basics, such as the three-point line, the paint, shooting, dribbling, and the rules, remain the same. However, League of Legends (LOL) constantly evolves, rendering previously acquired knowledge obsolete.

This aspect of the game creates a problem - there are no returning players. Once you stop playing, it becomes increasingly difficult to pick it back up.

Evaluating Riot Games’ Efforts in Tournament Format Changes

My assessment is to adopt a wait-and-see approach and encourage Riot Games’ esports division, which has been dedicated to making the competitions more exciting over the past few years. Change is a positive thing.

Riot Games has been experimenting with different tournament formats, motivated by the lackluster quality of early seasons' competitions and extreme luck-based outcomes. In the past, teams with strong reputations like SKT and RNG being placed together in the group stage resulted in what was commonly referred to as the “Group of Death.” European and American teams assigned to this group had minimal chances of advancing, often starting the group stage with consecutive losses in best-of-one matches.

The transition to a Swiss-style format seems more reasonable, even though there can still be extreme luck factors, as evidenced by the fortunes of WBG and KT in this year’s Swiss rounds. KT’s success this year demonstrated that in the Swiss format, as long as a team has the skill, they can advance. It eliminates the previous scenario where teams would lose all three games in the first round of the group stage, then win two games with no benefit in the second round, essentially making it a waste of time.

The Swiss format makes every game a do-or-die situation. To advance, teams must win more best-of-one matches. If they lose two best-of-one games, they face a do-or-die best-of-three match against a team with the same record. Winning the match means advancing, losing means going home.

However, MSI has become somewhat awkward since it became a subsidiary event. It might receive less attention and prestige in public perception (even champions don’t get skins, and MSI’s viewership is much lower compared to Worlds). Even if you know your team is the first in the first half of the year, it doesn’t guarantee they will perform well at Worlds after the meta and game environment change in the second half.

With the addition of this championship region, securing a spot at Worlds has become much more valuable. The role of the MSI champions has been elevated, adding suspense to Worlds. Most teams that win the Spring Split championship can at least perform well enough in the Summer Split to reach the playoffs. With the issue of early elimination due to poor performance by the reigning Spring champions resolved, there is no longer a concern about missing Worlds even with the advantage of Spring Split champion points.

Enhancing the Prestige of MSI: Champion Team Skins

I still hold the same opinion: awarding a skin to the MSI champion team would suffice.

The concept of championship seats feels insubstantial and uninteresting. If Riot Games truly wants to elevate the prestige of MSI, they should consider providing skins to the championship team. Choose a champion that best represents the team’s characteristics and create a skin for it. This approach would generate excitement, rewards, and prestige, without overshadowing the viewership and prestige of the World Championship (Worlds). Is it that difficult to implement?

Moreover, creating just one extra skin per year wouldn’t be an issue. You can make skins for the top 10 players; why not create one for the MSI champion team?

Therefore, this year’s MSI was just decent - it had potential, but it lacked flavor, making it a missed opportunity.

Suddenly remembered that RNG has made significant contributions to the LPL, securing three Worlds Championship spots and creating several top-tier skins, all rightfully earned.

Changes in Tournament Format Bring MSI and Worlds Closer Together

The most significant change in the tournament format this time is that MSI will serve as a stepping stone to Worlds. The MSI champions will now secure a direct ticket to the Worlds, somewhat diminishing the prestige of the MSI title. The MSI champions have the privilege of directly earning a spot in Worlds, potentially intensifying the competition at MSI. Let’s take a look at what Riot Games officials have to say about this.

For the first time ever, the Mid-Season Invitational (MSI) champions will directly advance to the World Championship, without occupying a base slot in their respective regions. The region with the second-best performance at MSI will also receive an additional slot at the World Championship. To secure an early lock on a spot in the World Championship, this team must advance to the playoffs of their respective summer split (LEC teams need to reach the final stage of the LEC).

The most noticeable impact of this format change will likely be the increased viewership and competitiveness of MSI, as winning MSI now guarantees a direct entry to Worlds. This change ensures that MSI champions remain in the spotlight throughout the year.

On the flip side, there won’t be situations like RNG dominating the Spring Split, winning MSI, and then having to compete for the fourth seed in the Summer Split anymore. After all, the most crucial event of the year is undoubtedly Worlds, and MSI has now become a stepping stone to Worlds.

Furthermore, MSI has historically struggled to match the viewership of Worlds. This reform, to some extent, can boost viewers' interest in MSI due to increased competition and might make the LPL and LCK fans pay more attention to MSI as it plays a more pivotal role in the path to Worlds.

The fact that MSI will be held in Chengdu next year is quite a pleasant surprise, and hopefully, this MSI will showcase the enthusiasm of the Sichuan-Chongqing region to a global audience.

After reading the title and introduction for quite a while, I still don’t know what the competition is about. It’s really absurd that they didn’t provide any information.

Is Chengdu really that fun? All the events have passed. Seeking advice.