Recently, Riot Games announced their plans to make changes to League of Legends that were intended to reduce the frequency of lane swaps in pro play, by making lane swaps “a strategic choice with actual tradeoffs.”
Oracle’s Elixir conducted a brief survey to gauge the opinions of some of the League of Legends community, including both fans and professional journalists, broadcasters, coaches, and players. Respondents were asked about their viewing preferences regarding lane swaps, their agreement with Riot’s claims that lane swaps are boring to watch and formulaic, and their opinions about Riot’s proposed changes.
The findings of the survey are presented below, with some brief discussion of the implications.
Notes on Methods
The survey was completed by 214 people. Of those, 27 self-identified as a “casual LoL esports fan,” 152 self-identified as a “hardcore LoL esports fan,” and 36 self-identified as a journalist, writer, broadcaster, or professional analyst, coach, or player.
The sample for this survey was not randomly selected, and is relatively small. Findings cannot be accurately generalized to the overall LoL esports community. It is likely that the “casual fan” group is poorly represented, because individuals within this group will be relatively less likely to spend time on Twitter or Reddit, see the link to this survey, and be interested in completing it.
Interpretation Note 1: Yesterday, Riot announced that their changes will be landing in the 6.15 patch, with a somewhat reduced scope, due to feedback they received from the community and from selected voices within the professional scene. The responses to this survey were gathered before Riot’s revisions were announced.
Interpretation Note 2: For this survey, a “lane swap” was defined as a game that begins with both teams sending their players to opposite sides of the map to trade towers, as opposed to “standard lanes” with direct 2v2 match-ups between AD Carry + Support pairings.
Question: As a viewer, which of the following options best describes your preferences?
Unsurprisingly, most people enjoy watching standard 2v2 lanes more than watching lane swaps. Hardcore fans were the most likely to prefer standard lanes. While many casual fans had no preference, most still preferred to watch standard lanes. Professionals (journalists, analysts, broadcasters, etc.) were more likely than the other groups to prefer lane swaps.
Question: Rate your agreement with the following statement: “Lane swaps are boring to watch.”
Nearly half (48%) of casual fans agreed or strongly agreed that lane swaps are boring to watch. Hardcore fans were equally divided, with 41% finding lane swaps boring and 41% disagreeing. Professionals felt differently than the other groups, with a majority (58%) disagreeing or strongly disagreeing that lane swaps are boring. Less than 20% of each group had no clear opinion.
Question: Rate your agreement with the following statement: “Lane swaps are formulaic (they always play out the same way).”
Similarly to the previous question, casual fans were likely to feel that lane swaps are formulaic, while hardcore fans were split, with 44% seeing lane swaps as formulaic and 45% disagreeing. Professionals, again, tended to disagree that lane swaps are formulaic.
Question: Rate your agreement with the following statement: “League of Legends should be changed to reduce or remove lane swaps in professional play.”
Only one-third (33%) of casual fans–the group that was most likely to see lane swaps as boring and formulaic–agreed that League of Legends should be changed to reduce or remove lane swaps in pro play. Many casual fans were unsure whether changes were necessary.
Hardcore fans, many of whom also felt lane swaps were boring and formulaic, mostly (52%) disagreed that changes were needed. To speculate, this perhaps demonstrates the strength of opinion of hardcore fans in support of competitive integrity over the average fan’s viewing experience.
Most interestingly, the majority (58%) of professionals agreed that changes were needed. This may illustrate many professionals’ belief that the LoL esports experience needs to be designed for the audience’s preferences, not for the preferences of the pro community itself. That goes against a commonly expressed opinion among hardcore fans that Riot should not be prioritizing the needs of fans over the needs of the players and teams.
Question: Rate your agreement with the following statement: “Riot Games’ proposed changes will improve the average viewer’s experience.”
It should be borne in mind that this question was asked before Riot chose to remove the cannon minion changes from their patch, scaling back the level of disruption the changes might bring about.
Under that caveat, all groups tended to disagree that Riot’s proposed changes would improve the viewing experience. In fact, professionals were the most likely (31%) to be supportive of Riot’s changes as a good solution to the problem, while the majority of casual fans (56%) and hardcore fans (57%) disagreed that the changes would result in improvements.
Overall, the common sentiment seems to support Riot’s claim that fans would prefer to watch games with standard lanes. These findings do not strongly support the idea that fans find lane swaps boring to watch and formulaic, but it must be remembered that the “casual fan” group will make up a large part of the overall viewership, and this is the group that is most likely to prefer watching standard lanes and see lane swaps as boring/formulaic.
While it may be “kind of sad that the changes seem to cater to the average viewer, rather than the pros,” in the words of one respondent, the responses of professionals seem to support the idea that pushing more standard lanes is the right approach, and that the interests of viewers should be more important than the preferences of professionals, at least in the case of lane swaps.
But while there is general agreement that change is needed, there is even clearer agreement that the community did not support Riot’s proposed changes. However, it’s possible that this reaction would have been less severe if Riot had announced the reduced scope of their changes before the survey was put out.
It’s also possible that the antipathy towards Riot’s specific changes is capturing complaints about the timing of the changes. With patch 6.15 landing just before the playoffs in the five main professional regions, there is potential for the state of the game to be disrupted, leading to a perceived imbalance of competitive integrity. This survey does not contribute to that part of the conversation. Riot has acknowledged, though, that the timing for these changes is poor, and that they should have made the changes sooner. It’s clear that Riot feels strongly enough about the need for these changes that they aren’t willing to wait until after the World Championships, and the findings of this survey do seem to support the need for changes to happen.
Whether the need for change was great enough to out-weigh the need for stability is a matter of opinion.