Europe versus Northern America is an ongoing debate in the League of Legends scene. While the competitive gap between the regions has never been bigger, NA seems to be unable to keep up in development. How big is the gap really and how did it end up like this?
Perhaps the most iconic League of Legends feud is the neverending fight between fans of the League of Legends European Championship (LEC) and the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS): the European Union (EU) versus Northern America (NA). While the actual overlords of League of Legends have been the Koreans and the Chinese respectively ever since Season 3, EU and NA still love to squabble over which region is superior.
A long-standing fued
Unfortunately for NA, the feud has lost somewhat of its fire over the last couple of years. Whereas EU has been unable to claim a Worlds victory, we have seen them consistently match the performance of the Korean and Chinese teams over the last three years. In the last three years, EU made the finals twice and had 5 teams make top 8 in conjunction to that. Meanwhile, NA has been completely reliant on Cloud 9 for their international success, with their highest finish being top 4. No other NA team has made top 8 in 6 years: TSM was the last team in 2014.
Opinions greatly differ over how this difference came to be and how it developed into the huge gap we see today. In this article we will take a look at some of the possible explanations and mechanisms that can explain why EU is a whole lot better than NA.
Talent pool and ERLs
First, we must take a look at the talent pool. A late 2018 count showed that the EUW server, by far the most popular and populated one, housed around 3 million players. NA, on the other hand, was shy of 2 million players. While just having more players does not necessarily mean a greater performance, it does incentivize faster development and a more cutthroat competitive environment. Further building upon this, there have been numerous recent complaints about the state of NA soloqueue. Rife with trolls, griefers and toxicity, even pro players have had a hard time taking it seriously. This robs players of an opportunity to develop themselves outside of scrims and hone their mechanics.
Ibo’s Aatrox and Hades deleting opponents:
— European Masters (@EUMasters) May 12, 2020
Secondly, Europe has been profiting greatly from their European Regional Leagues. Players like Fnatic’s Oskar “Selfmade” Boderek and Tim “Nemesis” Lipovšek found their way into the LEC through the European Masters tournament, the final gauntlet where all the ERLs meet. This creates a clear route for aspiring talent. You play in your local ERL, where if you perform well enough you can get an EUM ticket. This, in turn, will allow you to showcase your talents at the biggest stage outside of the LEC.
Compare this to the NA Academy League, which has no clear route towards it. A lack of regional competitions further exacerbates the issue, widening the gap between prospective talent and actually reaching the highest level of competition. NA Academy also only encompasses 10 teams, whereas a single ERL will house between 8 and 12 teams at the very least.
Difference in production
Third, and this might be a more controversial take, but one can see a clear gap between the LEC and LCS in terms of production. Perception matters, and ever since the rebrand the LEC has been on the forefront of League of Legends production (only being matched or outdone by Worlds). In terms of content, storytelling and depth, they have been pushing constant development and improvement. Meanwhile, the LCS has stagnated.
if the broadcast is consistently making mistakes with the overlay, showing the wrong Fiddle build, wrong replay, cringe “freestyle” rap, and then ends it with SushiDragon, it feels like a clown show. in another context showing niche content at the end of the show would be great
— Yiliang Peng (@TSMDoublelift) June 20, 2020
Although problems arising due to COVID-19 haven’t helped the current season, there seem to be more deep rooted issues. While the LEC is a cohesive broadcast with a clear story to tell, the LCS seems torn between wanting to be a professional sports League such as the NBA or NFL, while simultaneously leaning too heavily into meme-y content. Freestyle raps and Stefan “TheSushiDragon” Li his performances stand in stark contrast to similar LEC content. Having the greatest players and their matches be framed in such a way, can only have detrimental effects on the way that the overall level of play is perceived. Professional player Doublelift has openly criticized the LCS production.