The League of Legends $2 million Season 3 World Championships came to a close on Friday as 13,000 fans at the sold-out Staples Center in Los Angeles watched South Korea's SK Telecom T1 sweep China's Royal Club in three straight games to win $1 million.
Led by the 17-year old Mid-Lane superstar Lee "Faker" Sang-hyeok and team Captain Lee "PoohManDu" Jeong-hyeon, SKT1 brings home the first world title for South Korea in League of Legends, the overwhelming national favorite for the championships. SKT1 was the final team from Korea to qualify for the world championships, and the final team overall as well.
"Back when I was participating in the Korean championships at OGN, all I thought was about making it to the World Championship," Faker told GameSpot shortly after hoisting the Summoners Cup. "But as I was walking down and lifted the cup up, I realized that my goal was to win this title and lift this cup up. This meant so much to me."
SKT1 practiced with Royal Club for dozens of games to prepare for the teams previous opponents Najin Sword and Fnatic in the Semifinals. Before the finals began, Royal Club Captain Pak-Kan "Tabe" Wong said that their team only won a few games during practice, and believed they only had a 20 percent chance of winning against SKT1. Faker was surprised by this.
"We were really apprehensive about whatever cards Royal Club may have been hiding because during our scrimmages, Royal were really easy; we won a lot of those games," he said. "So we figured there was something more that they were hiding. The games were a lot easier than expected. Now saying that, we did expect to win this match because we put in a lot of work for this."
"SKT just outclassed us," Tabe said after the finals in a Reddit AMA. "We disrespected the Jax pick and were just outplayed by mechanics, IQ, and team coordination. SKT is really a monster team. They are in my opinion the best."
While a number of teams will be undergoing roster changes and vacation time as the World Championships are over, SKT1 will continue to compete in the Korean qualifiers for the World Cyber Games 2013 Finals. Faker is grateful for his championship experience, and sees only continued success for his team.
"This is the happiest moment of my life," he said. "I can't believe it and I don't think I'll ever forget this moment. I'd really like to thank the fans in North America for their support. I'd like to ask the fans to instead of just focusing on me, give that attention to all of my teammates. Thanks to Riot Games for everything."
Riot Games Vice President of eSports Dustin Beck tweeted during Game 1 of the broadcast that there was an estimated 1 million concurrent users watching through Twitch, YouTube, and AzubuTV, with another 1 million concurrent users watching through streams in China and South Korea. Beck added in conservative estimates of an additional 4 million watching on TV in an unspecified number of countries.
"We aren't focused on numbers to measure whether we're succeeding with our eSports efforts," Beck told GameSpot before the finals. "We're mostly concerned about providing a great experience for fans. Audience numbers are certainly one metric to help understand whether we're doing that, and to that end we're really happy that fans continue to watch in increasing numbers. We're just as excited to read feedback from players that helps us improve, and to see an incredible outpouring of community support, like the hundreds of viewing parties that are happening around the world for tonight's games."
In a press conference prior to the finals, Riot Games revealed initial details for Season 4, including a January start date, and remaining 8 teams per region for North America and Europe. The location for next year's World Championship is still to be determined, with all options on the table. Through a new partnership with Coke Zero, Riot Games will be running a Challenger league in tandem with the LCS for the growth of the amateur players and stability of the league.
"It'll provide exposure to the next generation of pro-level teams and players, and give them crucial event experience and stability," said Beck. "Coke's sponsorship is unique--they recognized the importance of this aspirational level, they're as excited about it as we are."
Riot Games' Nick Allen said that the Challenger league will run alongside the LCS so that there will be attention overlap for both leagues, with Challenger games starting at the end of LCS each night.
Stay tuned to GameSpot eSports for coverage of the off-season leading into Season 4.