League of Legends, a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) game, was published by Riot Games on October 27, 2009. Since it’s release, it has met unrivaled popularity that has grown exponentially since its first release. In 2012, according to a Forbes article, League of Legends became the most played PC game on Europe and on North America. Few years after, on 2014, more than 67 million people played LoL(League of Legends) per month and over 7.5 million concurrently during the peak hours all over the world. Without a doubt, LoL has become the world’s most popular game in a matter of couple years.
How did LoL achieve this feat? How was it able to surpass the pre-existing games as a new comer into the scene? The answer lies within its design.
First of all, the main selling point of LoL is that it is a free-to-play game. Unlike its competitors at the time (Starcraft, Warcraft, World of Warcraft, Counter Strike, and etc.), LoL offered complete, free access to all its contents. With this, they were able to attract a large number of players who were looking for games to play. Unlike its pay-to-play counterparts, LoL provided unlimited amount of game play for everyone, making it easier for ordinary casual gamers to try the game out. Also, unlike some of the other games, LoL did not provide any in-game bonuses for the people who paid money to buy RP (Riot Points). By advertising itself as a game that only requires skill to play, LoL was open to everyone.
Second, its simple yet sophisticated game play also played a huge role in attracting new players. Starting out as a spin-off from a game named Dota (a mod game off of WarCraft 3 that started the MOBA genre), LoL shared many of the same characteristics with its parental part. LoL, like Warcraft 3’s Dota mod, offered relatively easy controls, only requiring your mouse and the usage of couple of keyboard keys. Because the controls were so easy, new players were able to easily pick up the mechanics of the game, allowing LoL to be widely accepted by the public audience. However, despite having a low skill floor, LoL still contained a high skill ceiling, meaning that players who had more experience playing the game could make fancier players (or outplay) than what their opponents could make. This aspect of the game play helped Riot Games to maintain the old player base by providing more room for old players to have an advantage over the new players through their sheer skill.
Last, but not least, Riot’s continuous attempt on having communication with its customers allowed them to maintain a stable, rising player base. By focusing on the players’ experience, Riot was able to accustom itself into making changes to their game depending on their customers’ wants and complaints. If one aspect of the game seemed unbalanced, making the game “unfair,” they sought to balance the game by “nerfing” the said aspect of the game in order to maintain high customer satisfaction. They also provided their customers with new contents often, allowing the players to maintain their interest in the game. With this, Riot was able to keep a stable, yet rising player base.
Although Riot Games was not a pioneer in the industry, because of their focus on customer satisfaction, they were able to create the most popular game in the world. There are also more reason why LoL is so popular (Riot establishing the LCS [ a pro scene]), the World Championship, etc); however, without these fundamentals, they would not have been able to achieve this type of feat.
The video above shows the movement of 10,000 different players in 10,000 games
– Jo Kim