So where did LoL come from?! Its hit the eSports world like a tsunami on Indonesia. I personally have played it on and off since beta and have watched it blossom into this beautiful mature competitive moba. It has been no easy path for Riot. There has been so many pitfalls reached that Riot have seemed to not only jump over, but capitalise on and grow larger. How did they do it? Whats contributed to LoL’s rise?
The early challenge for Riot was verse HoN. This rivalry I think has emphasised just how effective the free to play idea can be. But free to play is not a new concept and its important to note how well Riot balanced it with paid content. The achievable content and paid content is so finely tuned that it dangles enough over casual players to keep them going and wanting more while dedicated players essentially pay through the nose to get everything they think they need to play their best.
The other aspect of this HoN rivalry is that Riot marketed their game specifically to be as welcoming of all types of players as possible, especially the lay noob. You can see the idea behind HoN was to have an extreme competitive focus, perhaps in the ilk of how sc2 was launched. It also subsequently attracted a number of dota players.
Meanwhile Riot was noob friendly, community focused and had their ‘summoners code.’ The real life implications of this, imo, is pretty unsubstantial. People still behave like dicks and the communities attitudes etc are pretty similar. However people buy into it, they feel like their game has a different attitude despite whether they practice what they preach. Its similar to hipster politics that claim “save the world man” while voting republican.
Riot decided to OWN their competitions. Arguably the premier LoL event is what LoL itself owns/promotes/runs ingame. Now this is perhaps something never seen before in any other game. Most game developers to date release a game then let the community run with it. Blizzard are one of the few developers in history that ever support a game after release.
Luck is a key factor as well here, in a number of areas. The first is streaming went big around this time. sc2 came out and got things cracking on justin.tv> twitch and own3d. LoL quickly took this up and Riot ran with it. Conditions were perfect for Riot to capitalise on reaching their target audience in a whole new way.
Another thing is how fracking aweasomley Riot invested in developing game caster talent. Was this an in-house decision? Because it has paid out handsomely for them. LoL itself is a technical/descriptive/ back and forth casters wet dream. To put simply, its an entertainers gold mine. Its like the cricket of eSports.
The second piece of luck has been South Korea and the transition from sc1 to sc2. It couldn’t have been timed better for Riot and I would be fascinated to know more about how much Riot tried to promote LoL in Asia. sc2 came out and the whole of South Korea were stuck in this starcraft hangover rut, it was like a giant economy going bust big. sc2 just wouldn’t take off and Koreans went looking for a new game. That new game was LoL.
So here we are, LoL and riot are at the forefront of competitive gaming, on the precipice of a brand new era. They smashed HoN, have broken out of the successful game zone and are now into the eSports changing zone. Just one challenge stands before them and its dota2.
I’m fascinated and excited to see how they handle this challenge. The game engine is the next battlefield I think. Right now LoL has a great balance between being super playable on all computers, but requiring enough to make people buy better hardware to run it. So it attracts the correct level of sponsors to events.
This is where dota2 can upset it, valve are in a good position to do damage and at this early stage are raking in big numbers. Riot have done so much awesome things with LoL, I hope the free 2 play model can come up trump.