“What’s in a Meta?” Analyzing Champion Diversity in Esports

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League of Legends is a popular esports title in the ‘Action Real-Time Strategy’ genre – currently boasting over 100 million monthly active users, and over 130 champions playable in-game. The term “meta” is used to describe the subset of playable champions that is widely considered “viable” and/or “dominant” in professional play. This meta evolves rapidly because the game’s developer, Riot Games, continually releases new champions (every 6-10 weeks) and rebalances the relative strength of existing champions (every 2-3 weeks). To date, approaches aimed at identifying changepoints in the meta have largely relied on subjective opinion and feel. This paper therefore presents an empirical methodology for characterizing the frequency with which “meta shifts” occur over time, applying an offline agglomerative changepoint model to professional champion select data from the past three seasons. We then derive and introduce a new statistical measure called Champion Viability Score (CVS) – which quantifies how the “priority” or “value” that professional teams place on different champions changes over time, applying an exponential smoothing approach to the time series data above. Together, these methods empower esports managers, coaches, and analysts to (1) better understand the historical viability of champions in past meta regimes (2) better adapt and develop strategies to align with the current meta, and (3) better anticipate and prepare for inevitable changes to the future meta.

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