Origen: A Dark Horse in the EU LCS Franchising Race?

With last month’s announcement of EU LCS franchising (that will start from the 2019 season), fans are already speculating as to which teams will make the cut and which teams are set to miss out. European giants such as Fnatic and G2 would appear to be set in stone, whereas long standing teams H2K and Unicorns of Love have had known financial struggles and so may not be able to afford the €8m entry fee set for current LCS organisations. One unlikely team, however, look set to make a comeback to the scene and could be a surprise selection by Riot if they were to apply to the partnership process.

Following the removal of the EU Challenger Series for the 2018 season, Riot have instead pushed focus on European Regional Leagues and had announced plans for the top teams from each of these leagues to meet in a Champion’s League type tournament at the end of the split. This tournament will run from 9th to 29th April and will also include last season’s EU CS teams; Wind and Rain, Ninjas in Pyjamas, Mysterious Monkeys and Origen. Yes, Origen.

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Founded by Fnatic legend xPeke (made famous by his back-door vs SK Gaming at IEM Katowice) in 2014, Origen quickly rose through the European Challenger Series, through to the LCS and all the way to a semi-finals place at Worlds all within their first season as an organisation. They became a fan favourite along the way, amassing almost 1 million followers across their social media platforms (Twitter – 700k, Facebook – 150k, Youtube – 90k, Instagram – 45k).

Despite their instant success, however, their fortunes changed the following season. After reaching the final of the EUC LCS Spring play-offs (where they fell to a 3-1 defeat at the hands of G2), they then lost their star bot-lane of Sven and Mithy which began their downward spiral. After a number of bot-lane changes that split, Origen found themselves in a fight to stay in the division after ending with a 2-8-8- record. They retained their LCS spot after defeating Misfits 3-2 in the Promotion Tournament. After losing their whole roster during the off-season, Origen then struggled heavily in Spring 2017, mustering a 0-13 record in the regular season and losing their LCS spot at the hands of Giants Gaming (now Vodafone Giants) in a 3-0 sweep during that split’s Promotion Tournament. A mediocre 1-0-4 record in Summer 2017’s Challenger Series saw the end of their journey, with the team not appearing to have any intent to compete in Season 8.

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After a 6 month hiatus, the team’s official twitter page posted it’s first update since October, retweeting a previous tweet from their account telling fans to ‘Stay tuned, news soon ;)’, teasing at their potential comeback. This was confirmed with following updates relating to the team’s involvement in the European Masters, mostly including the hashtag #OGresurrection.

The first player in their new roster was confirmed shortly after; veteran Jungler inSec. The former KT starter is famous for his Lee Sin mechanics, particularly a famous Q > Q > ward jump > R whilst playing in All Stars Shanghai 2013. Despite not being a prominent figure in the pro scene during recent seasons, his reputation as a legend of the game has still caused fans to stand up and take notice.

This was followed up by their second confirmed player, ex-G2 Top-laner Expect. Despite having been part of both of G2’s EU LCS finals victories in the 2017 season, Expect found himself a free-agent after leaving the team in November. He has been unattached ever since and appears to be another great pickup for Origen ahead of this month’s tournament.

Their roster is likely to be announced in full this Saturday (07/04/18) after a tweet teased that the ‘FINAL STAGE’ or the resurrection would be completed in ‘2D23H50M59S’. Other rumoured players include mid-laner Froggen (most recently of Echo Fox), ADC FORG1VEN (previously of H2K) and support Jesiz (currently a substitute for Fnatic). If this roster were to materialize, it would certainly help to send a message that Origen’s resurgence is serious following their previous crash, which left fans doubting the abilities of the organisation’s management team.

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In amongst the roster updates, another announcement was also made relating to a new member of the Origen family. Retired footballer player Alvaro Arbeloa (of Spain, Real Madrid and Liverpool) has joined the organisation, likely as an investor despite his role not being confirmed, in a tweet on his personal account simply stating ‘I’m in’. His brother, Yago Arbeloa, also retweeted the announcement from Alvaro. With Yago being an investment manager, it has been rumoured that this may be a joint venture between these brothers as they take a step into eSports.

With previous sponsors such as Alienware and Ozone, as well as xPeke’s personal sponsor Gillette, this points towards Origen already having theΒ necessary financial backing to not only provide the franchising entry fee, but to also sustain a stable, long-term residency in the league.

When choosing which applications will be a success, Riot will also take into account the team’s potential ability at attracting fans and providing increased viewership for the LCS. With Origen already having accumulated such a large fanbase, this will also greatly help the organisation’s chances at becoming a permanent member in the scene.

It now remains to be seen whether Riot would have any reservations bringing Origen back into the league. Their quick rise and fall certainly did not ooze adept management, however many fans across the world would certainly be delighted to see them accepted back. We can now only wait and see how far the #OGresurrection will go, whether it be a short stint for European Masters, or whether we may one day again see them competing on the World’s main stage.

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