For the majority of the eSports era, League of Legends has reigned supreme in South Korea. After claiming the throne as the nation’s most popular game from the iconic Starcraft titles, Korea’s PC Bangs were filled with aspiring players grinding to establish themselves as professional League of Legends players. Riot Games’ title seemed insurmountable, but with the launch of Blizzard’s Overwatch in May 2016, the tides of popularity started to shift.
Overwatch’s dramatic rise in popularity after launch certainly caused a stir within the League of Legends community, notably in South Korea. Amidst a period where the state of the game felt stale and the professional scene had become predictable, summoners were logging out of their accounts and putting their hands in their pockets for Overwatch – it wasn’t long before Overwatch toppled LoL as the most popular game in South Korea’s PC Bangs.
Sceptics initially predicted that this trend would mark the demise of League of Legends, yet in the aftermath of the 2016 World Championship, the largest eSport title started to make a recovery. It took a while, but Riot Games has now recaptured the imagination of Korean gamers: rising up to 32 percent in Korean PC Bang play, marking the highest percentage for League of Legends at PC Bangs since June 13th 2016.
Meanwhile, Overwatch has slumped to 18 percent, a significant eight-point drop from the previous week, when it was at 26 percent. This is the first time sine May, just days after the game’s release, that Overwatch’s play percentage has dipped below 20 percent.
There are a number of possible explanations for Overwatch’s relative decline. The drop comes a little over a week after Blizzard introduced a strict ruling in Korea to ban foreign accounts, all Korea PC bang players are now required to hold the licenses of Blizzard games in order to play in different regions. North American accounts for instance, must purchase a copy of Overwatch before being allowed to play in a PC Bang.
In theory, this new practice will act as a deterrent for banned Korean players, who could previously make North American accounts and play Overwatch for free in PC Bangs. Whilst an effective measure to keep banned players out, the new regulations are likely to have dented the player-base statistics.
Additionally, the lull following the conclusion of the third competitive season of Overwatch could potentially affect players’ incentive to play Blizzard’s revolutionary title.
With League of Legends’ return to the summit of South Korea’s favourite eSports titles, the sceptical hysteria forecasting the games’ demise have paled into insignificance. Whether the game will permanently hold down the throne is a matter of speculation, given the variances in popularity that come with international tournaments and competitive off-seasons. One definitive statement that can be made however: League of Legends certainly isn’t a ‘dying game’.
The 15 Greatest Innovators In Competitive League of Legends
15. Heo “pawN” Won-seok
Games Played: 263 Unique Champs: 40 With 3+ Games: 26 With 1+ Wins: 38 - The God Slayer himself, arguably the best Yasuo player in the world.
14. Marcus “Dyrus” Hill
Games Played: 275 Unique Champs: 40 With 3+ Games: 23 With 1+ Wins: 31 - A great deal of diversity for a Top laner remembered as being hung out to dry... sad that one of the unique champions had to be Lulu.
13. Kim “ssumday” Chan-ho
Games Played: 228 Unique Champs: 41 With 3+ Games: 29 With 1+ Wins: 33 - Despite being best known for his abilities on tanks, as one of the best Top Laners in Korea, ssumday has been around long enough to sample every viable competitive champ.
12. Remigiusz “Overpow” Pusch
Games Played: 126 Unique Champs: 42 With 3+ Games: 18 With 1+ Wins: 31 - The man responsible for Pantheon Mid... don't expect any thanks for that.
11. Kang “Ambition” Chan-yong
Games Played: 399 Unique Champs: 44 With 3+ Games: 31 With 1+ Wins: 40 - A veteran of the game and regarded as one of the best players ever, Ambition's winning record with unique champs speaks for itself.
10. Darshan “Darshan” Upadhyaya
Games Played: 330 Unique Champs: 44 With 3+ Games: 33 With 1+ Wins: 37 - If it can split push, chances are that Darshan will play it.
9. Søren “Bjergsen” Bjerg
Games Played: 328 Unique Champs: 44 With 3+ Games: 29 With 1+ Wins: 38 - Adaptable to nearly any meta, Bjerg's list of unique champions will just continue to grow and grow.
8. Hai “Hai” Du Lam
Games Played: 245 Unique Champs: 44 With 3+ Games: 25 With 1+ Wins: 36 - Having played Mid, Support and Jungle under the Cloud9 banner, Hai should be disappointed he hasn't brought more champions to the rift!
7. Mateusz “Kikis” Szkudlarek
Games Played: 202 Unique Champs: 44 With 3+ Games: 27 With 1+ Wins: 35 - Twisted Fate Jungle... I don't need to say any more.
6. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok
Games Played: 377 Unique Champs: 45 With 3+ Games: 33 With 1+ Wins: 41 - The God of League of Legends eSports is continually bringing innovative picks to the rift... what even is a Galio?
5. Enrique “xPeke” Cedeño Martínez
Games Played: 355 Unique Champs: 46 With 3+ Games: 35 With 1+ Wins: 38 - Having roleswapped from Mid Lane to AD Carry certainly helped to boost xPeke's numbers.
4. Liu “Zzitai” Zhi-Hao
Games Played: 329 Unique Champs: 47 With 3+ Games: 38 With 1+ Wins: 40 - Famous for his Trundle backdoor, Zzitai is a veteran innovator.
3. Alexey “Alex Ich” Ichetovkin
Games Played: 280 Unique Champs: 49 With 3+ Games: 30 With 1+ Wins: 41 - The original innovator behind Kha'Zix mid... those were the days.
2. Henrik “Froggen” Hansen
Games Played: 327 Unique Champs: 50 With 3+ Games: 33 With 1+ Wins: 40 - Turns out Froggen is far more than just an Anivia one trick!
1. Paul “sOAZ” Boyer
Games Played: 417 Unique Champs: 59 With 3+ Games: 42 With 1+ Wins: 53 - Ziggs and Soraka top anyone? All hail the king of champion diversity!