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LCS Caster Azael On The State of the League and the Road Ahead

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It's been a wild season so far in the LCS in North America. Professional League of Legends has a very different look, and a very different time to look at. We sat down with LCS Caster Isaac "Azael" Cummings-Bentley to discuss the current state of the league and lolesports, as well as to get an idea of what the road ahead might look like. 

Obviously a lot of changes in the LCS this split, most notably the shift off the weekends to Thursday and Friday. A lot of people were, quite reasonably, concerned. Now as we're getting to the end of the Spring Split, how are you feeling about it?

I think there's some positives and negatives. Part of the positive side is supposed to be that there isn't overlap between all these different Riot products, so hopefully if people are a fan of a lot of different things, they can watch all of it. One thing I knew was going to be a difficulty was that the atmosphere in the studio is such an important part of the experience to me. Both for the people who are there, but also the fans who are online, I do think it's a really important thing for them, and just to be frank, it's way harder to fill a studio on a Thursday afternoon than it is on a Saturday afternoon, or a Sunday afternoon.

And that's something that I knew was going to be difficult, because even as an online viewer, you feed off the energy from the crowd, right?

But overall, I'm very happy about most of the changes that we've had this split. I really do like the content and the direction that we've been doing. I've loved the incorporation of players into the broadcast, and that's something we've really wanted to do. 

Is the increase in personality in the LCS this year a product of the league struggling to compete internationally and so they're focusing on entertainment, or is it just the natural result of esports growing and being popular for as long as it has been?

I think it's more just that we want to focus on it, not because we're not doing well internationally, but because I think this is something that amplifies your interest in the league regardless. If LCS is doing poorly internationally, but you really care about the players, you're going to tune in. And if the LCS is doing really well internationally, and the players are really entertaining, that's just going to boost viewership even more.

It's a weird time in the LCS right now, we're getting ready to say goodbye to some teams that have been around for a while, most notably CLG and everyone's waiting with bated breath on TSM. How do you feel about the LCS just overall?

I've obviously been following the LCS for a long time. This is my 8th year with the league, so I've been here for awhile myself. I think back to my memories of the LCS and like, 2016 was such a glorious year for CLG and even more modern years, them upsetting expectations. I have such an attachment to that, that it is sad to see them go.

The economy is hurting, there's high inflation, a lot of esports organizations are propped up by VC [Venture Capital] money, and a lot of the VCs are pulling back on their investments. That's something that's not just an LCS problem, but something that's being felt across the space.

I don't think esports is going anywhere. I don't think the LCS is going anywhere. But it does seem like we're going to be coming into a time where there's going to be a rebalancing of things, or whatever you want to call it. I have been pretty vocal over the years of thinking that player salaries, and honestly, just team expenditure, like how much money teams are spending has just gotten pretty out of control.

I would love if player salaries were public. I would love if there was salary caps. I would love if there was more of a focus on sustainability. 

What's next for League of Legends?

If you enjoyed the interview, you can check out Azael on his Twitter. He'll also be casting at the upcoming Mid-Season Invitational which kicks off May 2nd.