The Rise and Rise of the League of Legends Franchise


League of Legends” (CC BY 2.0) by mrwynd

When Riot Games first launched League of Legends back in 2009, few could have predicted that it would have grown to be the phenomenon it has become today. It really is a phenomenon and this is underlined by just a few of the stats surrounding the game. For example, it’s a free-to-play game that generates over $1.5 billion in revenue a year. It’s often held up as the biggest game in eSports and its 2019 World Championship attracted up to 44 million viewers at its peak. Not surprisingly, there’s also an insatiable appetite amongst players to quickly pick up strategies for success.

A quick history of LoL

The game was born from a vision of Riot Games’ founders to create a natural successor to Defense of the Ancients (DotA). They enlisted the help of a DotA expert called Jeff Jew, first as an intern and later as a producer, along with a team of developers and designers.

Initially, the game failed to attract investors who couldn’t see how the free-to-play model was ever going to make it profitable. In hindsight, they needn’t have worried and more a few of the would-be investors must still be kicking themselves over a lost opportunity. It’s hard to blame them, however.

At the time, the free-to-play model was pretty much unknown outside of Asia so there was a degree of uncertainty about how it would work. Of course, now it’s commonplace not just in the world of gaming but in various other sectors of entertainment too. For example, free spins no deposit UK online casinos are now so popular that there are a number of sites helping players to find the best ones available. As an introductory offer, it is hard to beat, especially as there is a good chance to generate revenue a little further down the line. The point is, offering a free to play or incentive-based model can be profitable for publishers.

Expanding the game

League of Legends at Igromir 2013” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Sergey Galyonkin

League of Legends may not offer free spins – but there have also been plenty of spin-offs that have both built the brand and helped to add to the bottom line. The first and most important of these have been the other games that it has launched. To tie in with the increasing trend for mobile play, these have included a version called Teamfire Tactics as well as League of Legends: Wild Rift. To mark continuing development of the franchise, a single-player game called Ruined King: A League of Legends Story was also released in November 2021.

A year before, in April 2020, a free game featuring collectable digital cards and called Legends of Runeterra was introduced.

Meeting up with Marvel

It also seemed almost inevitable that, at some time or another, Riot Games would also try to carve out a niche in the comics world. In 2018, this was exactly what they did in a collaboration with Marvel. It seemed like a logical fit, both having rich lore that had been established and devoured by fans. The first two of the titles were published in the same year, League of Legends: Ashe—Warmother and League of Legends: Lux. However, there have been no more since then.

It may well be that the focus was shifted to the long-awaited animated series set in the LoL universe. Called Arcane, this premiered on Netflix in November 2021. Initial reviews have been very positive indeed, suggesting that it is good enough as a standalone series to draw in viewers into the game even if they’ve never experienced it before.

So if it does get some more players dipping their toes into the world of Runeterra as players or viewers, it’s going to mean more revenue for Riot.

The soundtrack to success

A final, and more obscure, experiment in multimedia spinoffs has come in the form of music and manufactured bands. The earliest attempt came in 2014 with the invention of heavy rockers Pentakill to promote a skin line of the same name. This was followed up in 2018 by a virtual four-piece band called K/DA. The final genre to be explored has been hip hop with the group called True Damage who performed at the opening ceremony of the 2019 World Championship.

So the question is, where next for LoL? Major motion pictures are not out of the question and more variations on the game itself are a certainty. Because, when you’re on to a winning formula, you just don’t want to stop.

Chris Price