Photo by Colin Young-Wolff/Riot Games
This week, Riot Games released a 2019 LCS Year In Review. It was chock full of impressive numbers, but one in particular caught my eye. Amidst talking about the success of their live events this year, they mentioned that the LCS Summer Split finals in Detroit contributed $5.44 million dollars to the local economy. While that may not be a staggering amount of money when compared to other events like the Olympics or the Super Bowl, it’s incredible when taken in context.
The LCS Summer Split finals marked the first major League of Legends event to be held in the city of Detroit. Detroit is a city best known in esports for its fighting game scene. While it does put on some stellar events, they’re usually smaller and more grassroots. However, the gamble for Riot to host the event in Detroit paid off big time as over ten thousand fans descended on the Motor City.
I remember making my way through the crowds of people at Little Caesar’s Arena and wondering how many of them were from out of town versus local. When I started asking people, I was stunned by how many people were from the Metro Detroit area. This wasn’t just a case of rabid League of Legends fans travelling with the product, although there were certainly many who did. This was a passionate fan base that was just waiting to have their fires stoked by a local event.
For a weekend, LCS solved the problem that traditional sports have been staring down the barrel of. How do you get fans to leave the comfort and luxury of their own home theaters to attend an event live? Since Roman times, sporting events have been built on spectacle. This was esports spectacle at the highest level. More than that, it showed what we in the esports space have known for years. That there are fans in cities all over the country just waiting for something to attend.
As a Michigan native, I’m looking at this through the lens of Detroit, but the lesson is applicable all over. If the next LCS event were to be held in Denver, or Tulsa, or Frankfurt, you would see much the same story. You would see passionate fans finally getting to attend an event in their own backyard.
For those cities out there who have turned their nose up at esports, take heed. Detroit’s economy was stimulated by over 5 million dollars for a weekend of esports. Can you imagine what it might look like when the city is fully bought in and promoting it? We’ll have some examples to watch this year. Keep an eye on the Overwatch League this year as they experiment with homestand weekends all over the country.
So remember as you prepare your bids for the Final Four, or for a major college bowl, or a PGA event, that the answer to bringing the young consumer out of their house could be no further than your nearest computer.