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The LCS Spring 2023 final was the least-watched grand final in the history of League of Legends.

Cloud9 and Golden Guardians clashed in the League of Legends Championship Series Spring Split grand final in Raleigh, North Carolina. Top-seeded Cloud9 won 3-1, winning $100,000 and an invitation to the Mid-Season Invitational. While getting second was Golden Guardians’ best-ever showing at the LCS, this storyline wasn’t enough to get the viewership the match needed to be considered a success.

Sunday’s final had a peak viewership of 271,376 online spectators, according to Esports Charts. This is the lowest viewership for a grand final in LCS history. The Spring Split as a whole had 14.8 million hours watched — down 22% from LCS Summer 2022 — causing fans to call it a “dead game” and blaming Riot Games for the new weekday-focused schedule in favor of supporting VALORANT’s esports scene.

The real reason that viewership struggled was due to popular teams failing to make it to the playoffs, including Team Liquid and TSM. The other issue is that the Finals happened on Easter (and Passover) weekend, a time when many people are with their families.

While there are legitimate reasons that the LCS viewership saw such a massive decline, it’s honestly part of a bigger trend that has led some to believe that the esport is struggling as a whole.

Opening day of the Spring Split was down significantly from the start of Spring Split in 2022. But the issues started earlier than January 2023. Viewership has been declining for the LCS since 2017. In fact, there’s been an over 41% decline in viewership since 2017, with 2022 having about 36.2 million hours watched compared to 61.4 million in 2017.

  • Spring 2023: Cloud9 vs Golden Guardians - 271,376
  • Summer 2022: Cloud9 vs 100 Thieves - 370,178
  • Spring 2022: Evil Geniuses vs 100 Thieves - 387,072
  • Summer 2021: 100 Thieves vs Team Liquid - 364,328
  • Spring 2021: Cloud9 vs Team Liquid - 415,731
  • Summer 2020: TSM vs FlyQuest - 545,571
  • Spring 2020: Cloud9 vs FlyQuest - 379,426
  • Summer 2019: Team Liquid vs Cloud9 - 494,765
  • Spring 2019: Team Liquid vs TSM - 599,813
  • Summer 2018: Team Liquid vs Cloud9 - 422,310
  • Spring 2018: Team Liquid vs 100 Thieves - 520,211
  • Summer 2017: TSM vs Immortals - 451,796
  • Spring 2017: TSM vs Cloud9 - 642,535

The LEC has actually experienced increased viewership, however, so it’s not true that League of Legends is a “dead game.” It’s possible that it’s just not as popular in the United States, a very unsurprising revelation. Other regions have always boasted more esports fans in the first place and it’s no surprise that the teams in North America are not as talented on the international level.

Even worse, the LCS has seen a lot of strange and troubling changes the past year. CLG was recently acquired by NRG and TSM may be looking to sell its spot despite being one of the most popular teams in North America. Team Liquid also had mass layoffs earlier this year. Other esports organizations outside of League, like FaZe Clan, have also reported finances.

As the LCS continues to struggle with viewership and stable organizations, it’s possible that Riot Games may emulate LEC’s format in an attempt to get fans invested in the LCS once again. This was initially leaked by former caster Christopher “MonteCristo” Mykles but nothing has been confirmed thus far.