COMMENT: It's a shame no one is watching the US$2 million Wild Rift Icons

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·Contributing Editor
·4-min read
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Fans at the Wild Rift Icons watch party at MBS (Photo: Yahoo Esports SEA)
Fans at the Wild Rift Icons watch party at MBS (Photo: Yahoo Esports SEA)

League of Legends: Wild Rift developer Riot Games has put plenty of effort into holding its Wild Rift Icons Global Championship 2022, which is currently taking place in Singapore.

It's an in-person event, with 24 teams and talents from all over the world competing in a grand-looking stage.

The production value looks good, comparable to Riot's own League of Legends tournaments. Its prize pool isn't too shabby either, with US$2 million up for grabs. So why is Icons not attracting the viewers it should?

As of the first day of the Knockout stage, it seemed like the stream only had around 10,000 or so viewers watching.

What the numbers say

But don't take my word for it, the stats folks at Esports Charts have also published an article about Icon's viewership numbers and reported that, for the Group Stage, peak viewer numbers dropped from 50,400 to a mere 35,800 on the last day.

The first major Wild Rift tournament, last November's Horizon Cup, had a viewership peak of 62,800.

These low numbers stand out even more when compared with last month's US$300,000 prize pool Mobile Legends: Bang Bang SEA Cup 2022.

Their stream had 2.8 million peak viewers, and over 140,000 viewers for its English channel versus the 26,000 of the main English channel of Wild Rift Esports according to numbers from Esports Charts. Icons' numbers just look way too low for a huge tournament.

These numbers discount China, where Wild Rift is broadcast on the Huya platform. Chinese viewership numbers are usually not revealed – they use a strange engagement number instead that's misleading. So we'll ignore that.

The Facebook factor?

Wild Rift Icons is streaming on Twitch and YouTube, but not on Facebook.

Most mobile MOBA streamers tend to have audiences on both Facebook and YouTube, so the omission of Facebook is puzzling. Twitch really isn't the platform of choice for mobile MOBA gamers.

I'm guessing there's probably a streaming deal that Riot has in place with Twitch to explain the exclusion.

Given that Wild Rift is targeted at the Southeast Asia market (it did a closed beta here first), there should be a healthy audience wanting to watch Icons since MSC 2022 is over.

But I don't think it's because people aren't interested.

It could be because Riot is focusing its resources on the wrong audience.

While English works for the North American and European market, SEA is a market that has many languages.

If it wants the SEA market, maybe Bahasa Indonesia, like with MLBB, should have been a priority, especially on Facebook. But no one is actually watching the ID stream on YouTube, so maybe this isn't the answer.

The viewership numbers for the Wild Rift Icons Global Championship have been surprisingly very low, even if its final Knockout Stage already started.
The viewership numbers for the Wild Rift Icons Global Championship have been surprisingly very low, even if its final Knockout Stage already started.

Chinese dominance?

Another factor could be the dominance of the Chinese teams. Four Chinese teams easily made it into the Knockout Stage, with three going into the semifinals.

As pointed out to me by a colleague, perhaps people aren't watching because the results are predictable and boring. Only three Wild Rift Champions SEA teams (WCS): Rex Regum Qeon (RRQ), Team Flash, and Flash Wolves made it to the Knockout Stage.

RRQ has already been eliminated by Chinese squad FunPlus Phoenix. And while Flash Wolves fell to J Team, Team Flash managed to sweep JD Gaming.

With three Chinese teams advancing to the semifinals, it's likely that Icons will have a China-versus-China Grand Final.

With the playoff's single-elimination format, there's no hope for an underdog story, or a victory from the lower bracket scenario.

With the result predictable, it could be why Icons is being given a miss by most.

Then, there's the worse case scenario, that no one is actually playing Wild Rift.

It's a great, beautiful, and well-made game, but maybe people prefer Mobile Legends, which has been around longer and has gotten the mind share of the populace.

Regardless, the lack of viewership is definitely worrying for Riot for its mobile MOBA. With Mobile Legends showing no signs of flagging just yet, Riot will have to figure out its Wild Rift strategy.

Otherwise it will be a GGWP.

Aloysius Low is an ex-CNET editor with more than 15 years of experience. He's really into cats and is currently reviewing products at canbuyornot.com. Views expressed are the writer's own.

For more esports news updates, visit https://yhoo.it/YahooEsportsSEA and check out Yahoo Esports Southeast Asia’s Facebook page and Twitter, as well as our Gaming channel on YouTube.

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