No LoL esports without Riot’s $$$?
Riot Games receives a lot of hatred from many directions for the absurdly large amounts of money that they spend on esports. So much so that people think that League of Legends wouldn’t have made it as an esports game without it. Well that thought is a big load of crap.
[I am not here to glorify Riot Games, merely correct a couple of useless misconceptions. In fact, I disagree with a number of things they do in esports or otherwise. However, because people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, I won’t openly discuss the details.]
Granted, it’s easy to be distracted from everything else with the amount of money Riot is spending. $5,000,000 on prizes per year, live events of their own, an orchestra at the World Championship and their investment into the esports big leagues. And Season 3 „will be bigger.” The American let’s make a statement approach. Quite a statement and quite a distraction from the really, really good stuff Riot have done in esports.
I would wager that League of Legends would still be in the major tournaments without Riot’s lavish spending. They made their game extremely attractive for anyone that runs video game tournaments. How?
THEY FUCKING TOLD THEIR CASUAL PLAYERS ABOUT ESPORTS.
Sounds simple, and it is, but no one before them has quite done it. For years thousands of potential players were isolated from online cups, major tournaments and all the broadcasts because there was no bridge that would connect everyone that played the game with everyone that was offering esports to that audience. A game owner would have to magically stumble upon it to enter esports and only a fraction of those made it through.
Esports community’s recruitment model, until recently.
The only audience that makes sense to advertise to if you’re an esports service provider (cups, events or streaming) are the people that bought the game you’re providing a service for. It makes so much more sense to get CoD players to play in your online CoD cup than to get non-players to play in your online CoD cup.
Your target group = game owners. And regardless of how hard you try, you won’t ever get to speak to the ENTIRE target group unless you are the publisher yourself. The growth of esports has always been bottlenecked by this fact. Until Riot came along and told their casual players about esports.
Riot is one of the first companies that decided that esports is going to be beneficial to their business in the long run. They keep making money on Billy that plays LoL every day. By contrast, if Billy buys a boxed $60 game, that is the only time the game’s publisher will have made money off of Billy with that game.
What’s a good way to keep Billy preoccupied with League of Legends, an innately competitive mutliplayer game? Hmm… esports?
And so, when there are online tournaments worthy of the attention of the LoL player base, Riot tells their community about it. ESL’s Go4LoL cups ran with a bracket for 1024 teams. The single largest one day esports cup known to man. (This man.)
Whenever there is a major event going on, whoever happens to launch League of Legends at the time will see a big landing screen that yells: “Hey, there’s an ESL / IPL / MLG event stream, would you care to tune in?” It’s not a news item on the developer’s blog somewhere. It’s the first thing any person that wants to play LoL sees. So big it’s in-your-face-unmissable.
Everyone that needs to know that you exist just found out.
Companies that held LoL events were rewarded with record-breaking stream numbers. Numbers that helped make esports comparable with MLS or Rose Bowl broadcasts. Riot delivered a potential audience of 35 million players to anyone that would want to run a LoL tournament. Not a fraction of the player base but the entire player base. Direct access to more people with a potential to love your product than ever before.
Is this in itself not a good enough reason to pick up a game and host tournaments for it?
Gamescom 2011 - first Intel Extreme Masters event with League of Legends as one of the main titles.
Games are picked for major events on the basis of logical, rational reasons more so than sentiment or individual preference. No game has an irrevocable, divine right to be featured on the center stage just because its gameplay is vastly superior to everything else and its community are the chosen people.
If you ask the people behind the major esports brands today which game is closest to their hearts, they would answer Halo or QuakeWorld, or Counter-Strike. (Others would lie or not answer at all because they’re not real gamers to behin with.) Any game that offers logical enough reasons to the suits of pro gaming will enjoy their attention, so it’s natural for a game with a large audience to be included in the big leagues.
“Here’s 35 million of our players. We give you access to all of them.” – this alone is more than a good enough reason for League of Legends to be featured in any tournament circuit. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise: without the money Riot would have succeeded in taking the center stage.
Which kind of makes me want to say that they’ve overspent…