Sports fans had a choice yesterday: watch the Super Bowl or watch League of Legends via Twitch. I figured the Super Bowl would easily win out and no one would watch the eSport, but boy was I wrong.

Above is a graph of League of Legends viewers of the 4 LCS tournament games on Super Bowl Sunday. (I made the graph from Twitch’s published data; there are viewers on other services, but Twitch is the majority.) About 230,000 people were watching on Twitch, a typical day for LCS. The surprise is viewership peaked at 286,000 for the last game at 4pm, half an hour after the Super Bowl started. No noticeable viewer falloff at the 3:30pm kickoff either; just the usual slump after the previous match ended.

Why didn’t the Super Bowl cut into the League of Legends audience? It helped that the final game was an anticipated matchup between two of the best teams with a strong fan base. The stereotypical gamer nerd is not a sport fan, so maybe there was no conflict. On Reddit people noted that a lot of LoL fans are Europeans not interested in the Super Bowl. (There’s an enormous Asian audience too.) Some folks said they’d just watch both at the same time.

I’ve come to really enjoy watching League of Legends tournaments. It’s an enormously popular game, 27 million people play daily and 32 million (8.5M peak) watched last season’s championship. Riot Games has invested heavily in making the game into a sports event. The broadcasts are a lot of fun to watch with smart announcers, good storytelling, and exciting gameplay. I’ve generally been a skeptic that eSports would become a phenomenon but League of Legends is winning me over.

If you’ve never watched LoL before, yesterday’s TSM v C9 game was pretty good. The whole 44 minute broadcast is worth watching but here’s a 5 minute highlight reel. The game is a bit complicated but basically it’s two teams of five players fighting to control the map. Here’s an overview of the game with a lot more detail. Lots more recorded games on /r/LoLeventVoDs.

  2014-02-03 20:11 Z