Season 7 World Championship has ended just a couple of weeks ago in a way that most probably didn’t expect. But I’m not talking about the result of the Grand Finals. Instead I would like to focus on a slight but crucial change that Riot announced during the Chinese adventure: the one about All Stars. To quickly sum up Riot’s announcement, All Stars will change in two ways that are going to impact the event as we know it very deeply.
The first update is that now players and fans in every region cannot vote for players from other regions. For example, I’m an EU resident. While until last year I could vote for EU LCS and players from, say, LPL and LCK, votes for those regions held for 20% of the votes. But what did this mean? 20% meant that for every 5 EU people voting for a non-EU player, that player’s vote count ticked for only one vote. It was a reasonable system: this way we could express preferences for players that we often couldn’t follow during the year (think about NA residents not being able to follow LPL due to timezones). While most people don’t care about choosing, for example, who is the best LMS ADC, since very few really follow the scene, I think being able to choose was fundamental.
The second change is the one that caused the most concerns: from 2017 on, All Stars won’t be played for fun or for bragging rights, but it will matter as a serious tournament for Riot’s not-so-hidden “region ranking” (more on this later). At first it might sound like a nice change: players will now be incentivized to give their best to prove themselves, resulting in an higher level of play and therefore more involvement from the fans. But is that needed? All Stars is always held during preseasons, where changes to the game result in mostly unbalanced metas and all pro players (yes, even Faker) take some time to rest before starting again in January. The addition of another serious tournament is most likely to feel like a burden to players who just recently took part in a one-month tour for Worlds.
All of this shifts the focus of the event in a way that most didn’t probably notice: it’s not about the most popular players anymore but the most skilled. All Stars is now a serious tournament that impacts region ranking, which is basically what determines what regions are going to play in the Play-In phases for future MSI and Worlds. Now, for those tournaments we don’t really choose what teams are going to take part – there’s a qualifier or a gauntlet and whoever wins gets the tickets, period. But if fans had the choice on what players they can send, who would want to send anyone who is not the best in his role? Since now winning is paramount, sending the best players should be obvious.
But it’s not always like that. Fans have (most likely) already seen the best players from their regions play at Worlds, and historically All Stars has been a fun tournament. Players still want to have a fun event where winning doesn’t matter. Some of you might have read about the mediatic contest between PerkZ and PowerOfEvil for the EU midlane spot, since this caused a lot of discussion. Looking back at Worlds, I understand that Misfits were on the brink of making history, but in no way we can discredit PerkZ’s performances from MSI and Worlds, despite not being able to get to Quarters. “Are you salty for the best midlane not going, Clockwork?”, you might ask. Not at all: I myself voted for PowerOfEvil. Why is that then? Because I, like most of EU fans apparently, still want All Stars to be a fun tournament. We already have serious ones during the rest of the year.
The same argument could be made for MikeYeung and Xmithie for NA fans, Xiye and RooKie for LPL, Soaz and Vizicsacsi, the list can go on. All popular or fan-engaging personalities that have been chosen despite not being considered the best in their roles. Riot really wants to make All Stars an improved version of Rift Rivals, seeing how much appreciation the mid-summer tournament got, featuring the absolute best players and the much-touted regional pride. But the community is not yet ready for the removal of our old, dear, fun All Stars. Fans still want to have fun, but most of all they want their favourite players to take part just to have fun playing the game they love. And they showed this with their votes.