Now that season 13 of the League of Legends ranked season is well underway, many popular streamers and Master+ ranked players from North America are spending months at a time moving to and playing in European League of Legends servers.
While this temporary migration of players is not unique to League of Legends, it has garnered a lot of attention from members within and outside of the League community. This phenomenon is something that many professional League of Legends players have been doing for years now, using the off-season to practice in either the EU, Korea, or China. It is now picking up traction in the streaming and semi-professional communities, and in 2023, this type of migration will be bigger than ever.
Why is this happening?
Well, out of all the major regions in North America (NA), Europe (EU), Korea, and China, NA is widely regarded as the worst. Historically, NA has the least successful showings at international tournaments, never winning anything in the 11 years of international competition of League of Legends. But this is just one reason why this is happening.
Another reason for this migration is that there are more competitors in other regions outside of NA. For reference, NA has one server for all 50 states, and the number of players playing ranked games on it hovers around 1 million. EU, on the other hand, has two servers, and the most populated server (EU West) has over 2 million players playing ranked. That is over double the number of competitors, and without getting into it too much, Korea and China both have more players than the EU.
The final big reason for this migration, and probably the most important, is that there is more money for these players and streamers in doing it. Most of them get sponsored to play abroad, so they are not paying for their anything to do it, and they are getting more views on their content on average because they have a larger potential audience. All of this equates to more money.
Who is migrating?
Just about every streamer who is ranked Master or above on NA is jumping on the bandwagon and spending at least a month or two in EU. The likes of loltyler1, with his nearly 6 million followers, is currently in Berlin so that he can play around 12 hours per day on the European League of Legends servers. Smaller streamers like the former professional, Lourlo, with his 150K followers is also in Europe to play. And there are dozens of other examples of players migrating to Europe to play League of Legends during the months of March and April 2023.
Many of these players are coming to the EU for the first time, so they do not have accounts to play on in the EU West server, meaning they have leveled up a fresh account to level 30 to unlock ranked. After that leveling process that takes around 20 hours of play, the players must climb through the ranks, usually starting around silver or gold rank, through platinum, diamond, and into master, grandmaster, and finally, challenger tier.
The goal for all these players is to reach Challenger, which is the top 1000ish players in the EU region, as fast as possible. There is no competition to get into the challenger the fastest, but the faster a player does get there, it generally tells of how skilled a given player is. For example, the best players in the world can generally reach the challenger tier in any given region in about 1 to 2 weeks. Very few players who are currently making a move to the EU from NA will make it that fast and some will not even make it.
What does this mean for NA League of Legends?
There is a good and bad side to this phenomenon. The good news is that this is something that has been happening for decades in sports like Basketball, Soccer, etc. It has overall been positive when it comes to honing skills and breeding competition across the globe, so it should do the same in Esports like League of Legends. However, it works both ways in these sports, international players will come to NA to compete sometimes, and other times NA players will go abroad to compete. It’s like a 50/50 split between NA going abroad and international players coming to NA for practice.
This is where the bad news comes in, though. This 50/50 split that we see in other sports is not applicable to League of Legends. International players do not want to come and play on NA League of Legends servers due to the stigma of being the worst major region. There are a few players that have come to NA to play, but not nearly as many as there are NA players going to EU or Korea for League of Legends. So, while the individual players are improving in other regions then coming back to NA, the NA League of Legends server is going to stagnate because there are no new players from other regions coming to mix up the competition in the region.
This does not include professional play because NA does import the most players for League of Legends and the LCS, but these are some of the only international players that make a move. All in all, it is an interesting phenomenon and makes for good content from our favorite League of Legends streamers, but it is not necessarily a good thing for the NA server as a whole.