Do you remember the times when gamers were looked upon strangely? Gaming was something “uncool” and mostly for the nerds of us.
Times have changed. The Nintendo Wii brought gaming into our living rooms. Suddenly the whole family was playing Wii Sports. Gaming is becoming more and more socially accepted.
AAA titles like GTA 5 are more expensive than ever. Rockstar Games latest game has a rumoured budget of $265m – that’s a budget some Hollywood blockbuster are dreaming of. But there is one company taking the whole gaming scene to a whole new level.
The company I’m talking about is Riot Games from Santa Monica, CA. Their MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game League of Legends is currently the most played game on the world with a whopping 70 million registered gamers and about 32 million playing on a monthly basis. The craziest part about it? You can play for free!
What is League of Legends?
League of Legends is a so-called MOBA game. MOBA stands for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena and, basically, describes a game where two competing teams try to overtake the enemies base. In contrast to games like Starcraft, no buildings are created and the player only controls one character.
When League of Legends started in 2009, a fair part of the gaming community regarded it as “just another copy of DOTA (a popular Warcraft 3 mod). The last four years have shown that LoL is a little bit more than that, making it the most played video game on the world at the moment.
League of Legends works on a Free to Play basis. You don’t have to pay any money to play the game. If you want to spend some money, micro transactions for characters, skins and boosts are available. These might help you to achieve certain goals sooner than without paying, but it does not give you an advantage to non-paying customers.
This free to play model is doing quite well in the mobile app industry, and it looks like game publishers are finally adapting to the market and are quite successful with it. Of course, not every gamer will pay, but it is still a quite smart solution against game piracy, isn’t it?
LoL also has quite low system requirements to run, which makes is widely accessible to people all over the world.
But enough of the game talk. The game comes for free and runs on basically every computer (even Macs). But why is it different from other games? Why am I trying to tell you that League of Legends might change the gaming scene and industry as we know it?
Why is League of Legends Different Than Other Games?
Riot Games is doing a great job promoting their game by giving it a real (e)sports image. An integrated league system is taking the whole idea of professional gaming to a new level: You can compete alone or with a pre-defined team to climb the ladder to the highest tier – the Challenger league. Each season lasts about a year and the best teams compete for a slot in the League of Legends Champion Series (LCS).
That might sound not that special for some of you, especially when looking at the Asian gaming scene. But Riot Games is able to transfer the whole idea of professional gaming to the western world. Just like other sports, LCS games are held everywhere from Thursday to Sunday with a live audience and moderators in the LCS studios all over the world. The games are broadcasted live in Full HD and are accessible for free online. Recaps and replays are also freely available on YouTube and the League of Legends eSports website.
How League of Legends Professional Players Can Make a Living From Playing LoL
In contrast to other games, League of Legends professional players can actually make a living playing the video game. Riot Games is paying its pro teams a yearly salary, teams are sponsored by gaming related companies and players can make an additional salary by streaming their games on websites like Twitch.TV. Hell, there is even a reality show called Gamecrib featuring one of the pro teams called TSM Snapdragon.
Riot Games is paying around $8.000.000 in prize money throughout the season, with the world finals alone paying $1.000.000 for the world champion. The United States immigration services also regards LCS players as professional athletes, awarding them athlete visa just like with any other “regular” sport.
League of Legends and eSports Are No Longer Niche
Riot Games managed to get some high-class sponsors on board like Pepsi or American Express. The latter offers a League of Legends prepaid credit card which is bundled with some in-game premium currency. This shows that League of Legends or eSports is no longer niche, but making a step towards becoming mainstream.
This is a large audience that’s strategic to our goals as a company to reach. Just as you see American Express at the US Open or LA Kings hockey games at the Staples Center, you’ll see us at LCS.
Ian Swanson, Vice President of Enterprise Growth at American Express
The LCS Season 3 World Championship kicks off today and will last for the next two weeks. 14 teams from North America, Europe, Korea, Southeast Asia, China, and a qualifying International Wildcard will be competing for the Summoner’s Cup – the world championship title. The finals will be covered live and fans can watch the games in person in Los Angeles. The final matches will be held in LA’s Staples Center, an arena that usually holds up to 15.000 visitors. And the finals ticket sold out – within an hour.
With A Great Game Comes A Great Community
Not only is Riot Games doing a great job, the community around League of Legends is also quite active. Riot Games is also in constant contact with its community, adjusting the game and adding features based on player feedback.
What’s Next For League of Legends And The eSports Scene?
Taking into account that LoL is only 4 years old, the game has already achieved many things. Big sponsors, a professional league system and sold-out arenas. But what’s next?
I think that the Riot Games will take the LCS the a whole new level in the next season. I expect a deal with a TV channel like ESPN, offering live coverage in your local sports bar or at home. Maybe a New Era cap series with team logos? We’ll see.
I personally think that this is a great an interesting development. The game industry has been growing fast during the last couple of years and it’s time to take it to a whole new level!
What’s your opinion on League of Legends, the LCS and eSports in general? Just a phase or a new market that will compete with regular sports soon? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Cover image courtesy of Riot Games