Esports organization IEM [Intel Extreme Masters] has announced on Reddit that for the first time since 2011, it will not feature League of Legends events in its current season. The change isn't the result of declining interest in LoL, however, but came about as the result of conflicts with Riot's own increasingly loaded schedule.
"In the current LoL landscape during the off season Western players are being traded or are on vacation while Korea and China are running tournaments with their teams locked in. Working around those limitations didn't seem like the right way to move forward," the IEM message says. "Our 2017 events won't happen to be in a period where pro LCS teams are free to compete. In discussions with Riot it was also determined that LCS wouldn't pause for Katowice. This means that for the first time since 2011 LoL won't be there."
The message acknowledged LoL as a "major part of the growth" of IEM, and left the door open for the game's return in future seasons. "As I write this, I am not sure if we will or will not run LoL events in IEM in the future. Should scheduling events around LCS become easier, I would certainly like us to," it says.
That doesn't sound likely to happen. A message posted today by Riot announced the forthcoming launch of a new regional competition called Rift Rivals, and said that "while we remember and cherish epic moments from the past, we believe that withdrawing for the upcoming season is the right way to go." More to the point, the studio sounds firmly focused on its own ideas, and tournaments, for the long-term future.
"It’s our goal to balance regional play with consistently high-quality international events that pit top teams from different regions. Regional play creates meaningful connections between fans and pros/teams and promotes positive things like deeper team investment and larger pro salaries—critical for a league that will last beyond the short term. International events are exciting displays of the highest level of play from the best teams in the world," Riot said.
"Looking at 2018 and beyond, we believe we could improve the way we structure our seasons around regional and international events, so we're taking a few steps to address that—some immediate, and some in the longer term."
In the same vein, it won't simply pile more international competitions on top of existing regional action in order to help ensure that pro players don't burn out. "Creating an uninterrupted offseason for pros in 2017 was one of the factors behind our decision to withdraw from the IEM series," it continued. "Additionally, the off-season is an important time for teams to evaluate potential roster changes and for players to consider their career options. We don’t want to make the off-season more stressful for pros by making the period they have to make roster changes significantly shorter."