January 29, 2022

A few titles come to mind when we are asked about the biggest games of all time. Currently, Fortnite holds the biggest game title of all time, with over 350 million players. However, there’s a game that came before this juggernaut, and that game defined the existence of esports and the future of free-to-play titles. That game is known to many as League of Legends.

League of Legends might be behind in the number of players (currently around 180 million). However, back then, it used to have the most number of players worldwide. This game also created the current gaming culture we have right now, ripe with competition and esports. We’ll be discussing the legacy of this wonderful game and how it continues to become one of the most influential games of all time.

Humble Beginnings

Just like any good game today, LoL got its inspiration from a Warcraft III mod that’s familiar to almost every gamer: Defense of the Ancients (DotA)DotA is considered one of the most extensive mods that garnered millions of players worldwide. Because of its success, a few of the mod developers decided to create a game similar to DotA. One of these spinoff games is LoL.

Two mod developers who helped create LoL were Steve Feak and Steve Mescon. Both visited Riot Games and eventually helped Brandon Beck, the company owner, make the very first version of LoL. After four years, the game was ultimately released with only 40 champions (compared to more than a hundred champions it has right now) and a few thousand players.

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A Spike in Growth

The release of LoL was critically-acclaimed at the time since many were growing tired of DotA, and the mod’s spiritual successor, DOTA 2, was still nowhere in sight. So naturally, people gravitated towards the closest game to the mod, LoL.

After its first year in release, the game received a spike in growth, amassing more than a million players playing the game every day. It was such an easy game to pick up, and any gaming computer setup could play it at the time. It wasn’t demanding for specs, and the game was easy to learn but hard to master. These were the two combinations that would make up some of the best free-to-play games today.

Because of the significant growth it received from players, sales from in-game cosmetics started to grow. This helped Riot Games grow as a company. Eventually, it caught the eye of a billion-dollar investor, Tencent.

Tencent’s Takeover

Tencent saw the opportunity that Riot Games presented, and Riot Games required a big enough company to grow the company. Both saw an opportunity within each other and decided to make a deal. At first, Tencent only bought portions of the company, but when Riot Games started to realize that it was growing larger than what it could support, it needed more funding from the billion-dollar company.

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Eventually, Tencent purchased 100% of the company for about half a billion dollars. This takeover was beneficial for the game because a couple of years later, LoL became the biggest game in the world because of the support it had in China.

Part of Chinese Culture

There are over 720 million gamers in China. The number of gamers in the US can only take up a small fraction of that amount. When Tencent took over Riot Games, it made sure that the game would be famous in its home country. Fast forward today, LoL is now part of Chinese culture, with over 75 million players (near-half of all the players of the game) playing it inside the country. Viewership is much higher than the overall player count, with more than a hundred million people watching it inside the country.

The Future of LoL

The future of LoL is still shrouded in mystery, but it’s clear that it’s too big to fail. It has over a hundred million players worldwide who are willing to give the game the necessary funds to sustain itself and grow. Moreover, the developers of the game have big plans for the game.

Various spinoff games are in the pipeline, such as an MMORPG and a fighting game featuring LoL champions. Wild Rift was also recently released, which is a faster-paced version of the game, catering towards mobile players. The game has around five million players, which isn’t bad for its release, but it needs to gain more if it wants to surpass its big brother.

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League of Legends is a game ingrained in the current generation’s DNA. It’s quite rare to find someone who hasn’t heard of it or has not played it. That’s how big this game has become, and it’ll continue to grow in the future.

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