The mostly young male crowd inside the Galen Center was clearly rooting for the Taipei Assassins, showering them with repeated "T! P! A!" chants and standing ovations each time the group took down Azubu Frost, who found themselves mired in controversy last week after they were accused of peeking at overhead displays to gain an advantage during the playoffs.
"We never fancied ourselves as league commissioners," said Beck, who graduated from USC with Merrill. "I don't think it was on anyone's Top 50 list of things they wanna do, but as you probably saw this past weekend, we've already had to make some very challenging decisions. We get it. We're creating a professional sport. It's part of our job."
Riot Games fined the team $30,000, about 20 percent of their semifinal winnings. It wasn't the only glitch at the playoffs, which were also bogged down in connectivity issues that forced some of the remaining matches to be moved from the LA Live entertainment complex in downtown Los Angeles to Riot Games' offices in Santa Monica, Calif.
Dustin Beck, Riot Games' head of e-sports, said the developers toiled away after the playoff fiasco to create a platform for the world championships that would remain live even if the Internet went down in the Galen Center. It worked, and the teams competed behind curtains, outside the view of the monitors that broadcast their positions to the audience.
Saturday's world championships went off without any issues, both in person and online where they were live streamed. While e-sports have been broadcast on U.S. television in the past, it never caught on. Organizers have forgone the old-school medium in favor of streaming matches online, where they can sell their own advertising and charge subscription fees.
"We lose a lot of money on e-sports," said Merrill. "It's not something, currently, that we do to drive return or profitability or whatnot. It's bringing value to our players. Maybe, down the road, that will change. This is something that we believe, as a company, philosophically, if we bring value to our players, they'll reward us with engagement."
Other gamemakers seem to be taking notice. "Call of Duty" publisher Activision Blizzard Inc. recently announced new features, such a picture-in-picture mode, for the upcoming "Call of Duty: Black Ops 2" that would make it friendlier to e-sports, and Microsoft Corp. is making "Halo 4" available at a Major League Gaming competition prior to its Nov. 6 launch.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Derrik J. Lang on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/derrikjlang.