At the start of 2020, the OPL experienced an exodus. Talent from the Australian continent left the Oceanic Pro League to prove themselves across North America and Europe. Making their way onto the starting rosters of top tier organizations, countless players represented the raising status of the wildcard region. Ry0ma joined 100Thieves, K1ng and soon to be starter Fudge made it onto Cloud9. Even the OPL jungler Shernfire took over the jungle position for Team Liquid while TL Broxah was trapped in a visa limbo. In Europe, former Mammoth star-support Destiny joined the promising, though ultimately underperforming, Origen Gaming roster.
At the end of 2020, the OPL went under. LoL Esports stated that the closing of their Sydney office was a result of a failure to meet their goals. Many speculate that the cost of maintaining the league was ultimately too much to bear as other regions have grown. This unfortunate closure has left countless players, team staff, and broadcasting talent unsure about their future and career in esports.
The sudden end of Oceanic League of Legends is even more surprising given the quality of their recent international performances. The past two Worlds have seen Australian teams performing their best in history.
Mammoth, in 2019, and Legacy Esports, in 2020, showcased that Australian teams had the potential to break into the Worlds main stage. Players such as LGC Raes and LGC Isles had standout performances in the play-ins stage beating out MAD Lions and SuperMassive Esports.
The Future for Oceania and LoL Esports
Former Oceanic players were given a consolation prize–they do not take an import slot in the LCS and LEC. This provides teams who have consistently found themselves at the bottom of the standings with an interesting opportunity. Specifically, LCS teams can now cherry-pick the top tier talent of an entire region, essentially bringing an Australian all-star team into a major region.
I hope that teams such as Counter Logic Gaming, Dignitas, and Immortals consider this possibility. The sad truth is, these unemployed players have little bargaining power over their contracts. They likely won’t be recruited into the LEC and there is no longer an Oceanic option for them. As well as being cost effective, the branding potential for an all former-OPL team is priceless. The idea of bringing over an entirely non-NA team is not foreign to the LCS, as the Chinese team LMQ placed third in the Summer 2014 season and represented North America at Worlds.
For the future of Oceanic League of Legends players, I hope that they find a home in the LCS and that a team decides that they’re worth the risk.
Check out our article on the increasing value of contracts in the LCS and what that means for the industry going forward.