Amir Mirzaee, Managing Director and Chief Commercial Officer at Bayes Esports, and John Knauss, Lead of Competitive Data Programs for Esports at Riot Games, discuss the ways in which the duo plan to level up the esports space and how data can help boost engagement with different esports verticals.
Firstly, thank you for speaking to us! How do Bayes and Riot plan to level up and professionalise League of Legends esports?
AM: Always a pleasure. Our most recent collaborative effort has been the LoL Esports Data Portal (LDP), which is a first-of-its-kind centralised hub that enables already more than 150 professional teams from all over the globe easy and secure access to their historic match data. This data, meaning video replay files and the underlying match event data streams, will allow the teams to level-up their pre-match preparation and post-match analysis, leading to an overall higher level of play.
This kind of effort is first of its kind in esports and once again, you have to admire the dedication that Riot Games is bringing to the table. Now, as the only game publisher, they have not only the only official live game data offering in the market, but also the only historic match data offering to their professional teams. Imagine what that says on the flip side. Imagine professional football or basketball teams without access to their replay files and underlying stats. In my eyes, you can’t show more commitment than that in creating a level playing field among teams and helping them improve in performance at the same time.
JK: Data is taking centre stage across sports globally as the driving force behind fan engagement, professional improvement, and revenue growth. The LoL Esports Data Portal (LDP) is the first step in taking esports data to the next level and building a world-class data platform to support our professional teams, partners, and community.
Our ongoing investment and partnership with Bayes in developing these new tools is part of our long-term commitment to the sustainability and growth of League of Legends.
The foundations we are building with the LDP, and our data accessibility initiative will power community growth, help pro teams evaluate and train players, and enable the next generation of products and experiences for our fans.
How will secure access to data from private scrimmages help develop global narratives around LoL esports?
AM: It won’t, since srim data is private training data. Accessing and using scrim data has always been kind of a headache for LoL esports teams. On one hand, scrimmages are obviously necessary to test new team compositions and develop strategies. On the other hand, teams need this data to be completely private. And because the data is so sensitive and confidential, Riot wasn’t comfortable with third parties handling it up until now.
We take their trust very seriously, as we have for the past 4 years of our partnership, and we’re fully dedicated to helping Riot scale the availability of this data to as many teams as possible. Having secure access to their own scrim data will allow teams to make full use of their scrimmages and this will ultimately lead to better results on stage.
JK: When it comes to the types of data the LDP provides, we are constantly balancing the needs of teams, partners, and the community. This applies to team improvement through the Scrim Data Tool and global narrative development with our global stats repository.
The Scrim Data tool is our most popular and frequently used feature in LDP. It provides teams private access to their scrims data to level up their performance and evaluate players.
The LDP also acts as a central repository for data across our global regions. This enables our casters, broadcast, analysts, and community with the information they need to develop and craft global narratives.
Why is it so important that access to the Team Data Portal is made accessible for all teams regardless of their budget?
JK: We consider providing professional teams with access to accurate and granular data table stakes for any sport. From the beginning, we have worked to provide all teams equal access to data at no cost to create a level playing field.
Data is an equaliser in the sports world. Teams with a more innovative approach to data can build better talent evaluation pipelines, adjust to meta changes, and scout their opponents.
We regularly work to help educate teams on the value of data as they compete at the highest levels. We believe this investment and approach will create more entertaining events and help any team compete at the highest level.
AM: It’s all about creating a level playing field among the pro teams and what Riot is looking to create is equal opportunity across their leagues. Today in esports, teams don’t have a unified set of tools or data to draw from, and in reality, lots of them make it up as they go or they don’t. Riot starts at providing a universal, powerful data set that is easy to access and use in order to streamline the training process.
On a wider note, this could also be seen as a step in counteracting total dominance of a few privileged teams. Performance brings success, and success brings prize money and sponsorship deals, which the teams can then invest into signing better players and staff and upgrading their infrastructure, which will then contribute to them winning more.
If the LDP was also only accessible to those teams that could afford it, we would see the gap between the top and more middle-of-the-pack teams widen further and further and we would ultimately only see the same handful of teams compete on the international stages. This situation could cause serious problems for the future of LoL Esports. Why compete when you know you cannot keep up with the best? Why watch when you know who is going to win? By allowing access to the same set of tools regardless of budget, we can make an important step in making sure that LoL Esports stays interesting and appealing for both teams and fans for years to come.
How will these new data sources increase engagement with esports fans?
JK: Our fans, community, and partners have proven time and again that they are willing to create unique products if given the necessary tools. Therefore, our effort to make data more accessible with products like the LDP focuses on enabling the long-term growth of the fan experience ecosystem that surrounds professional League of Legends.
This more accessible data will enable the ecosystem to create the next generation of fan-focused engagement products, which is fundamental to the long-term success of our sport.
AM: The massive upside for fans is of course that all this beautifully structured content is now also available to the teams to use publicly as they please. Again, if I’m a pro team in a random esports title that is not League of Legends, I have absolutely no way to get a full data set of my matches to promote my team and my players. Think about a world where we wouldn’t have “all of Maradona’s goals” video compilations. This is the reality for all other esports titles and now try to have them be meaningfully connected to its fan base.
We are also looking to power and support some community use cases, such as Leaguepedia and Oracle’s Elixir as well through the LDP. It’s these kinds of use cases built by the community itself that have made the growth of LoL Esports so special and we are more than looking forward to being able to support them going forward. Additionally, we are looking to make the LDP available to individuals within the community for research purposes in the near future as well, once again allowing the community to create their own content and their own platforms that will undoubtedly help fans get engaged with LoL Esports.
Can you tell us about how the team portal will be used to support the wider esports ecosystem and research projects?
JK: Data accessibility is something we spend a lot of time talking about. More accessible data means more products, more projects, and a robust ecosystem surrounding our sports, keeping fans engaged. This includes supporting those interested in pushing the envelope of our statistical understanding of the professional league of legends.
We are hard at work on the next phase of the LDP in which we are planning on opening up data access to the broader community and those with a passion for data. We want to see the amazing experiences and stats our fans can create with this data