League of Legends: Why has it seen so much competitive success?

A short look into why League of Legends has seen so much success in esports.


Posted on June 5th of 2014 by admin

As humans we are all naturally competitive in almost everything we do. It is part of our DNA to want to be better than the others around us. Video games provide almost the perfect medium to express this desire to be the best. At its core it is a form of entertainment, designed for fun and enjoyment however with the release of online player vs player games the platform has transformed into a competitive sport with players from around the world playing against each other for thousands of dollars watched by millions of people. On top of the pile is League of Legends. According to the developer Riot Games, League of Legends attracts over 27 million players per day. As far as competition this hugely popular free to play still boasts some impressive numbers and over four years has given away over 10.3 million dollars in prize money and has been watched by over 8 million people at a single moment during last year’s championship which was watched by around 32 million viewers overall. So why is League of Legends so popular and why has the online battle arena game been so successful in the esports community?

The obvious answer is that it has solid game mechanics that works well for competitive. However, League of Legends is not a one of a kind game and its competition contains many of the same game mechanics and overall the same type of gameplay. Valves’ game Dota 2 is considered by many to be a better game and even some avid League of Legends players will admit the game has an overall higher skill ceiling then Riots free to play which traditionally is a must for a competitive PC game. But the Dota franchise remains a tiny dot on the commercial money machine that is League of Legends.

To find out why League of Legends has exploded into the multi-million dollar game it is today I think we first need to compare it to other competitive scenes. For example, Call Of Duty: Ghosts has gained a large following in recent years and although it is basically nothing compared to League of Legends it is the most popular console game in esports. Why is this? Because COD has something over every other consoles game. Popularity. For proof of this you don’t need to look any further then the reveal event for its most recent addition to the franchise which took place in august last year. The event was not only was live streamed on the Xbox live dashboard but was the debut for rapper Eminem’s newest single and the first time the song was heard was on the Call Of Duty trailer, no other console game could dream of such an event, something infinity ward don’t want us to forget as they claim to be “the biggest entertainment franchise in the world”. This is the reason behind its success in the esports, a lot of players means natural competition and this creates a strong competitive scene. I think this is the main reason behind the success of League of Legends as far as esports.

The very business model of the game invites a large audience. The game is free to play and although you will have to pay to unlock all the content, no one is stopped from playing the game against people from all over the world without paying a penny. Riots clever marketing and the even more clever business plan of the game means they have built up a huge player base and if we follow the example of the console market: a large player base means a large esports scene.

Overall, I think that the success of League of Legends isn’t in the core game but rather in the way Riot has presented and marketed their game. In my opinion the success of League of Legends can be pin pointed to one word: accessibility.

What do you think? What is the key to the success of league of legends?