As the dust settles from Riot Games’ layoffs earlier this week, the cuts paint a worrying picture for the company’s esports ambitions. While the League of Legends and Valorant publisher committed to more tightly integrating esports into its other products, staffing cuts for the League of Legends EMEA Championship (LEC) and its unreleased esports streaming platform show that Riot is pruning its ambitions.
The LEC is one of Riot’s most watched regional leagues, but it has let go key production staff. According to a list compiled by VTuber and career coach btwbluwu, at least 27 LEC staff were impacted. Notably, these cuts include the LEC’s executive producer, head of production, backend engineers and game observers.
Notably, these cuts occurred just before the third week of the LEC’s 2024 season. While the league will still hold these matches, the impact on production could be drastic. Fans are particularly disappointed as the LEC’s production (and level of play) distinguish the league from its North American counterpart.
However, the LEC isn’t the only casualty in Riot Games’ layoffs. The developer also confirmed to Bloomberg that it official killed its planned Twitch rival, codenamed Riot Esports Network (REN).
The roots of this project stretch back to 2016 when the publisher announced a $350 million deal with BAMTech. This fell apart when Disney acquired a controlling stake in BAMTech in 2018.
REN would have given Riot Games more control of the viewing, including integrations to promote teams and sponsors. This alternative would have been particularly useful given Twitch’s looming shut down in South Korea. Last year, Riot debuted its Virtual Pass to enrich the League of Legends viewing experience for fans and drive revenue for teams. It’s not clear how these cuts will impact Riot’s ambitions to grow direct fan monetization going forward.
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