The Mid Season Invitational is Riot Games second biggest tournament of the year, and overall is one of the biggest Esports events of the year. It’s played in between the Spring and Summer Split and serves as a teaser for Worlds, and is also a way Riot Games can fill the break that exists between the Spring Split and the Summer Split, otherwise, it would just be two months without any tier 1 League of Legends.
I know that we have European Masters in the break between the Spring and Summer Split, but despite the tournament having a high level of gameplay, with very promising players, that will be the future of the LEC, it’s still technically not tier 1 League of Legends.
With each year that passes, it seems that the Mid Season Invitational gets less and less relevant, and appellative for the fans. It feels like until you reach the playoffs stage, 99% of the outcomes of the games are predictable, since the gap between the Major region’s teams and the minor ones is gigantic it makes for short and very one-sided games.
Viewership numbers are dropping
Let’s see how the Mid Season Invitational viewership has been doing for the past few years. In 2017 the Mid Season Invitational had an average viewership of 395,022 and peaked at 916,492, almost one million viewers. But this was still only the third edition of MSI and was the year where the tournament introduced the play-ins, which took place until the 2019 edition.
If you compare the average viewership number of MSI 2017 with the Worlds 2017 the difference is not that big, especially if you take into account that Worlds is a much more important tournament. At the 2017 World Championship in China, the average viewership was 572,944 so a litle more than 200k compared to MSI.
However, in the last couple of years, the difference has increased drastically. In 2018 the average at MSI was similar – 382k, with Worlds gathering 651k average viewers.
The 2019 edition of MSI actually saw the tournament improving in regards to viewership increasing to 537k, the highest in the tournament history until that point, and 2021 was even better in terms of viewership with the tournament getting an average of 711k viewers per game, but you have to take into account that because of the pandemic in 2020 there was no MSI, so with the competition making its return in 2021, and with a new model, everyone was excited to once again have MSI back, and let us be honest that was the point in time that any tournament at LAN that an Esports fan could get was a blessing.
The comparative analysis of multiple MSI tournaments and their detailed viewership statistics speaks for itself (Image by: Esports Charts)
2022 brought us back to reality with MSI only having an average of 440k per match, which is painfully low. Obviously that this going to increase since we are still in the middle of the tournament and once the top teams face each other the viewership numbers will by no doubt increase, but I doubt it will increase that much.
Riot Games needs to do something in order to make it more appealing for the fans to watch MSI and I think changing the format or at least making some adjustments could be very beneficial for the tournament.
The MSI tournament format
MSI 2022 groups stage was one of the most boring and predictable things I have ever witnessed, and I lived through the Golden State Warriors dynasty (basketball fans I know you got it). Just like from 2015 to 2018 you knew the finals were going to be the Warriors versus the CAVS, at MSI you know that T1 will defeat Team Aze nine out of ten times, that ORDER would most likely go winless on their group, and that RNG was going to be the first seed of Group B, 35 ping or not.
The only hope for entertainment on the group stage was the oldest rivalry in the game of EU VS NA, and some games between the underdog teams. The challenge for this group stage was trying to get the second seed of group A or B right since we all knew who was going to grab that first spot.
Group C at MSI 2022 has only three teams. Talk about exciting matches? Riot pls. (Image by: Riot Games)
Just looking at the groups even before the tournament had begun you knew this wasn’t going to be much of a contest, for the top spot at least. And ORDER, boy did they get the luck of the draw, the region that technically doesn’t even have a professional league, stayed in a three-team group, which could actually be good if the other two teams weren’t the LEC and LCS champions.
If you were an Oceanic fan, even if you are a very optimistic person, and I’m talking about yes I believe LCS will one day win a Worlds title kind of optimism, you knew that the changes of ORDER getting a win non the less getting out of their group were very small.
Only at the Rumble Stage does the tournament gets exciting since we are able to watch the LPL, LCK, LEC, and LCS champions battle each other multiple times during 5 days.
How to make MSI more interesting
So the question is, “is there a way for Riot Games to make MSI feel more important ?”, and not feel the same way the NBA fans feel about the Summer League?
I think so. For starters bringing back the play-in stage would be something that would make the tournament more interesting for sure. We would be able to see the best minor region teams compete against each other and the matches would be way more interesting.
Instead of having T1 defeating Team Aze in 20 minutes in a one-sided game, we could have Team Aze versus the CBLOL champions, and the VCS champions in a group where only the top seed would qualify for the Knockout Stage of play-ins.
Then you have the main event where the minor region teams that qualified from the play-ins would play versus the champions of the Major regions. This way you can measure the strength of the minor regions, and also create so rivalries like the TCL vs CBLOL one.
For me, this would be the easier way to make MSI more entertaining, captivating more fans to tune in to the group stage phase or play-ins in this case, having closer and way more entertaining matches, and also giving the minor regions a chance to prove their value instead of being stomped by the Major region’s champions.
One thing is for sure, Riot Games needs to address the MSI format and a change would only benefit the tournament and the fans.