Most people know that Korea has been a power house of esports since the beginning, but do we know what country comes second? It’s not obvious and really depends on the game, but the general consensus is that Korea is #1.
In League of Legends, teams are allowed 2 imports per starting roster. This is usually spent on Koreans, but in second place for western teams is Denmark. Denmark has produced more European pros than any other country. In both regions, they also almost always appear on a top 3 team.
But why are Korea and Denmark so good at producing League of Legends talent? I think it really depends on three factors: access to an esports hub, access to technology, and culture. In Korea, a lot of esports fans and consumers go to what are called “PC bangs” or internet cafes. For very cheap they can play League of Legends on the world’s lowest ping and in the company of other players. In Denmark, their access to gaming technology doesn’t come from PC bangs but it comes from a very high standard of living that allows the population to be able to afford gaming computers.
Korea is a relatively small country in terms of size and population. This can actually be a benefit for finding gaming talent. In Korea, if you’re good at a game, you won’t be too far from the hub of esports, Seoul. In Denmark, you’re allowed to work and live in any other country in the EU making relocation to Berlin easy. What if a kid wanted to go pro? Most will skip college to go pro but what if you live in New York? The teams are based in LA. This is a much bigger commitment than the day trip it takes to go from Denmark to Berlin or from anywhere in Korea to Seoul.
Lastly, culture plays a big role. Esports pros in Korea are looked at like superstars on a similar level to traditional sport athletes. Denmark is also known to be a progressive country which means parents are likely going to be more supportive of nontraditional careers.
There are many other trends in other games of what nationality produces the best players but not many games have the same kinds of patterns that League of Legends does with its Koreans and Danes. I anticipate North America becoming a power house in pro gaming pretty soon here and won’t be surprised if pro teams in other countries start recruiting from North America. As of right now, a pro League of Legends team importing from NA is unheard of.