How Riot Games Went from a Single Esport to Four in Less Than a Year

Just one year ago, Riot Games was a company that produced a single video game, League of Legends, and with it a single globalized esports ecosystem. Then, on Oct. 16, 2019, the company celebrated its 10 year anniversary with a video revealing a full slate of new games in the works. So far in 2020, not only have three of those games had a full release, but as of this week, Riot Games now officially operates four distinct esports ecosystems.

With each of these new titles (Teamfight Tactics, Legends of Runeterra, and Valorant) Riot has implemented a community-focused initial growth strategy. Rather than leaping out of the gate with million-dollar prize pools or franchised leagues, the publisher has given each title some breathing room – communicating with teams and organizers while providing less intrusive support such as funding smaller prize pools and implementing spectator features into the games. This growth strategy is led by Whalen Rozelle, senior director of global esports, and takes lessons learned from the evolution of League of Legends esports. 

“Understanding our communities – through listening, participating and partnering – has been critically important in identifying how to maximize against the strengths of each of our titles,” 

Rozelle told The Esports Observer. “To develop competitive ecosystems that can engage our fans and players for years to come, our approach needs to be tailored to fit each game while also drawing on the full scope of Riot’s global esports infrastructure.”

For example, the global success of LoL has allowed Riot to establish regional esports operations all over the world. Each region is unique, and those working within a region have a better understanding of what tournament formats, schedules, and community engagement work there. So, when looking to create an official global championship for Teamfight Tactics, Riot chose to allow each region to determine its own qualification process.

By the end of 2020, Riot will have hosted four global championship events across four games in four entirely different genres. Over the course of the next few years, that number will continue to grow as the publisher releases the remainder of the titles it teased in 2019 including a mobile version of LoL and a fighting game.

Riot’s continued expansion across the entirety of the esports landscape should also bring with it expanded partnership opportunities. The company has brought a number of high-profile non-endemic brands into the space from Mastercard to Louis Vuitton. With those relationships established, Riot could expand its established, multi-year deals to incorporate international competitions across any of its other esports properties.

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