A sport that’s more Carpal Tunnel Syndrome than it is pulled hamstrings, never let it be said that eSports can’t be as popular as its bigger, older and more active sibling. This was demonstrated back in July when 20 million people streamed The International, to see the world’s best Dota 2 players duke it out for the championship.
Impressive still, The International was even covered by ESPN2 and ESPN3 signalling the first time a major broadcaster has covered eSports so extensively. Given the difference in popularity between Dota 2 and League of Legends (according to the statistics) it’s also fair to say that League of Legends has even more of a draw than its rival.
However, although the nexus-destroying MOBA might hold its own when it comes to the amount of players, can continue to beat out Dota 2’s eSports viewership? According to early support for its upcoming World Championship it could be able to beat those numbers and then some.
Based off of last year’s stats alone you’d be able to say that League of Legends could trump Dota 2 in fact, as the 2013 World Championship garnered 32 million viewers with a peak of 8.5 million people watching at one time. Meanwhile Riot Games' EVP of eSports, Dustin Beck, told Polygon that Riot expects to build upon that this year. This is especially impressive given that League of Legends has, on average, 27 million people playing it daily so clearly the draw is further than the usual player base.
But for each person who is just interested in playing League of Legends casually, there are plenty willing to spend money on the free to play game and show their love for it in person. That’s reflected by the ticket pre-sales for the 2014 World Championship. Although the event will take place across four cities in five weeks, interest is so high in the resulting World Finals that Riot is using the massive Sangam Stadium (which hosted the 2002 World Cup) in South Korea to host the event.
Sangam Stadium can hold over 65,000 fans but Riot’s stage designs will whittle that down to just 45,000, though Beck explains that Riot is “trying to create more capacity and flexibility, but so far so good." That figure also suggests that eSports’ popularity is rising faster than anyone could have possibly expected as Riot used the much smaller Staples Centre in Los Angeles last year, selling out every single one of its (approx.) 12,000 seats.
Not only that but Riot is taking measures to improve the accessibility of their game, most recently with Intro bots and so with these new fans on board with League’s competitive, strategic PvP gameplay too, the World Finals of the League of Legends’ 2014 World Championship could set a new precedent for eSports as a whole when they take place on October 19th.