How did the audience for League of Legends E-sports events outnumber those of the NBA, the World Series, and the Stanley Cup?
Shocking, right? Well, not only this but if we were to quote Harvard Business Review ‘League of Legends (LoL) epitomized the birth of the E-sports industry ’. League of Legends is a Multiplayer Online Battle Arena(MOBA) video game, which was launched in 2009 by Riot Games as a ‘free-to-play’ game*.* According to magazine Inc., players collectively played three billion hours every month in 2016. The player count in 2022 has reached the mark of 180 million active monthly users, which is insane! Since the very start, the game has been setting records, be it in launching the game for ‘free’ or giving salaries up to $1 million to the game’s professional players. Also known by the name ‘League’, the developers of LoL have always tried to keep the game up to its name. LoL offers plenty of exclusive game features that obviously are the heartbeat of gamers worldwide, for example, the unending plot, frequent new patches, the constant evolvement of the game, and much more. In this article, we’ll be discussing the marketing strategies adopted by Riot Games over time to make LoL one of the best worldwide.
How League of Legends Stood Out?
‘Free to Play’ but not ‘Pay to Win’ game. Back in 2009, when everyone around was engaged in selling the MOBA mobile games at hefty prices, Riot came out with this concept of a ‘free-to-play’ game which diminished the majority of the competitors around. Many games that advertised ‘free to play’ turned out to be ‘pay to win ’ but Riot kept well in mind what they had to offer. They offered parity to their players. Yes, players could purchase ‘skins’ & other fancy, ‘character customizations’ through money but that did not favor the buyers to win in any way possible. Anyone who at least wanted to try out the game first could try it out without paying any fee which attracted lots of audiences to this game. This strategy made League of Legends stand out from the crowd.
Didn’t the developers need money?
Everyone needs money, of course, but you need to be a far-sighted person to be a good businessman. Riot Games knew exactly what they were doing. They were using the free-to-play business model. They first wanted to expand their area of influence and charged money only on unimportant types of equipment, eg. ‘skins’ that can change the appearance of the characters and can be purchased after buying an in-game currency called ‘Riot Points’. As virtual goods, they have pretty good profit margins but only 4% of people bought these ‘cosmetics’ which was significantly lower than the industry standard of 15 to 25% but it all worked out later. In no time, League of Legends spread its magic worldwide & became the greatest online video game of all time. In 2009 when it was launched, the game had a few hundred thousand players which got to the 11 million mark in 2011, 65 million in 2014, a huge leap up to 100 million players in 2017, and around 120 million players in 2020. At this rate of development, you could sell literally anything you want to, because then you’ve built a legit brand value. Riot is doing the same, for reference, if we talk about their TV series ‘Arcane’ released in 2021, its popularity surpassed that of ‘Squid Game’ in a very less time which is commendable.
Addictive features of the game.
The ‘free-to-play’ business model contributed significantly to the boom of League of Legends worldwide but it wasn’t the only factor responsible. There were a lot of other reasons for LoL’s popularity including some of its unique & challenging game features. The game couldn’t end ever. With near 150 champions and no less than 10 maps, the game has no end. Even after trying everything & putting in all your efforts, you can never actually ‘win’ the entire game because all that you did was as one champion & there are 149 more to go each having its own characteristics & qualities thus making the game unique, fun, and endless. Even after you’ve played as all the 150 champions, you’ll still have to get to Rank 1, which is near to impossible unless you’ve devoted yourself to the game day & night. Apart from this feature, the game never remains the same, since there are frequent patch updates & even the meta changes every couple of weeks. The developers are always on the run to change the mechanics of the game & the way characters harmonize with each other. The updates balance the gameplay of various champions & thus, League never feels old. There’s one more feature of the game that makes it stand out: ‘the challenges’. The objective of most games is to make them seem fun & easy to play to engage more audience but League incorporated the opposite. Riot developed the game in such a way that during the first few matches, the player won’t even know what he has to do exactly. This was done to create suspense & mystery for the challengers because a true gamer loves challenges so the players would spend hours playing the game & learning about all the minute details this endless game has to offer. All these features made LoL gain a lot of popularity over the years.
League of Legends got free publicity.
Yes, as crazy as it may sound, it’s the ultimate truth. LoL has progressed immensely over the years using free publicity as a boost. They deserve it after all. It’s something many other companies didn’t have when this industry got the hype. League of Legends gets free publicity from gamers, fans, streamers, influencers, and live stream viewers. The gamers who’re engaging on the application on a daily basis make sure to refer it to more people so that they can earn points & get to play with their friends. The fans always keep the social media platform lighted with new memes, updates, gossip, basically anything & everything related to LoL. The streamers use Twitch to continuously stream highlights of the game. League of Legends wasn’t the first game at Twitch but the one that played an integral role during its growing phase. Game Streaming wouldn’t have been this popular if it wasn’t for League of Legends. Millions of viewers are active at any time watching these live streams on Twitch. This is just Twitch that we’re talking about now. There are more, for example, Youtube, Mixer & Facebook with similar viewership, maybe a little less than Twitch. Any other game might have to pay millions to a Youtuber to just play a game for once. The ones who just liked watching people play started to have this urge to start playing & try the techniques that were being given by the streamer. Having all this done for free is a very huge plus point. Nowadays, the best way to market yourself is by collaborating or reaching out to influencers. What if they do that themselves? It’s just profit & profit, nothing else. Influencers always love sharing their accomplishments, and the same is done here. They publish videos of them playing ALL THE TIME!
The massive influence of the game worldwide.
The developers have always tried to spread the game worldwide by keeping a total of 19 dialects which made the game even more accessible & easy to play for everyone.
With around 14.44% of the daily active participation, the United States is the country having the maximum number of players of League of Legends. Turkey comes on number two with 9.26% of the total participation & Brazil on number three with 9.11% participation. China has been a pretty huge market for League of Legends which became even larger after Riot Games has been bought by Tencent, a Chinese company that’s observed to be the largest company in the gaming industry in the world based on its investments.
The rise of E-sports.
As discussed earlier, eSports bloomed in a way it never had, with the League of Legends. There were third-party Tournaments that were organized for other games by taking permission from their developers & creators but there was no direct involvement. This was where Riot Games knew exactly what they had to do. They sprang into the eSports scene & created the NA and EU LCS. Riot put in its full efforts to help turn eSports into a full-time job. The organizers as well as the players could finally get financial commitment & security for their future. Yes, many other games had tried getting into the same, but LoL contributed a significant portion. LoL now had to keep proper conduct of competitions & gaming hand in hand, which was obviously carried out well making League of Legends one of the most epic games ever.
This was all about how League of Legends evolved over time & became one of the best games that were ever created. Thanks for reading.
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