Riot Games is branching out into new types of esports events, starting with Teamfight Tactics. This December, 512 players worldwide will gather in Las Vegas to compete in a massive open-bracket tournament. Riot has not shared how competitor passes will be obtained just yet, but some priority will be given to players based on their Set 9 ladder rankings. Players worldwide will be able to compete, though they are not locking a specific regional breakdown.
Understanding Riot’s timing
Unlike Valorant, which had years of development and planning for its esports strategy, TFT was a relatively quick turnaround. Naturally, Riot borrowed its successful League of Legends esports model for TFT. Since 2020, Riot has crowned six global championships with its most recent ending this past weekend. 32 players from 9 regions competed for a share of $450,000 in prize money.
The tournament capped off its eighth set: Monsters Attack! Each set changes TFT’s units, theme, mechanics and meta game so Championships commemorate a set. However, Riot is looking to shake up its existing esports program for its auto battler. With over 80 million MAUs, TFT is Riot’s second most played game (for now). However, its esports program is not as high profile as either LoL or Valorant. The publisher took 2022 to rethink its traditional esports approach to draw in viewers from this massive player base.
“I think TFT is our biggest growth audience. A lot of our other games are in a state where we are trying to broaden out the audience and lower the barrier to entry. TFT has a massive audience, but most of them don’t engage with esports,” Michael Sherman, global head of TFT esports, told GamesBeat in an interview.
This upcoming TFT Global LAN event will take place at the beginning of Set 10, serving as a kick off rather than a send off for the set. This change will help the event capture the audience when excitement in the TFT community is at its highest.
“Peak set viewership and engagement happens alongside set launch, but traditionally our big esports investments happened at the very end of the set. There was a misalignment from when events took place to when players were engaging,” Sherman said.
Riot’s business model shift
Riot confirmed that this change in approach was partially influenced by a shift in TFT’s business model. The publisher announced earlier this year that it would be moving away from paid cosmetics and instead focus on free rewards and battle passes for TFT players.
“We realized that we were not delivering on our promise of being player-focused by charging for cosmetics that players wanted. We decided to pivot our monetization strategy and invest more in creating engaging content and events that players can enjoy for free,” Sherman said.
This decision also freed up Riot’s esports team to experiment with different formats and structures that would appeal to more casual players and viewers. Sherman said that the open bracket LAN event is just one example of how Riot is trying to innovate and diversify its TFT esports offerings.
“We want to create more opportunities for players of all skill levels and backgrounds to participate in TFT esports. We also want to showcase different aspects of the game, such as creativity, strategy, adaptability and fun. We think that by doing so, we can grow our fan base and create more memorable experiences for everyone involved,” he said.
What to expect from the event
The TFT Global LAN event will take place from December 10-12 at the HyperX Esports Arena Las Vegas. The event will feature 512 players competing in a single elimination bracket until only eight remain for the final day. The prize pool for the event is $500,000, with $150,000 going to the winner.
The event will also feature some special guests and surprises that Riot has not revealed yet. Sherman hinted that there might be some crossover with other Riot games or IPs during the event.
“We have some exciting plans for the event that we can’t wait to share with everyone. We want to make this event a celebration of TFT and Riot as a whole. We think that fans of TFT and other Riot games will find something to enjoy and appreciate during the event,” he said.
The event will be broadcasted live on Riot’s official Twitch and YouTube channels, as well as on various regional platforms and languages. Sherman said that Riot is working with local partners and influencers to create engaging content and coverage for the event.
“We want to make this event accessible and enjoyable for everyone who wants to watch it. We are collaborating with some of the best talent and personalities in the TFT scene to bring you high-quality production and commentary. We are also creating some fun segments and features that will showcase the players and their stories,” he said.