The League of Legends co-founder and Riot Games co-chairman Marc Merrill sat down with The Post and shared the struggle of diving into the mobile gaming world and expanding into different video game genres. The once small indie company, Riot Games were known for its successful MOBA PC title, League of Legends for a long time. It was just as long as the game had the steady Mac platform that it could only be played on. A decade later, Riot Games is not only acquired by one of the biggest online companies in China, Tencent but have also successfully published several other games from different genres.
Additionally, Riot Games has expanded its reach from PC to mobile games and consoles as well. We will articulate Riot Games discuss the studio’s journey towards mobile gaming and the studio’s plans for the future.
Riot Games journey: Starting from TFT to plans of Valorant Mobile
Under its portfolio, Riot Games has developed a card game in the form of Legends of Runeterra and the Automatic Chess title of Teamfight Tactics which both are inspired by League and have mobile versions of them. As of now, only the Tactical Shooter from Riot Games, Valorant has not been made into a mobile title. Although, there are talks on the plans of Valorant expanding to mobile devices soon.
Even though all mobile games have only been recently published, Marc Merrill reveals that Riot Games has always been interested in the mobile market. Commenting on the late arrival of such games, Co-founder and co-chairman Merrill and other executives has confessed, “One of the advantages that Riot has had historically is that we have the luxury of being able to be long term”. Having a vision of mobile gaming, Riot Games always had a plan to frame its future in the market.
Wild Rift: The mobile adaption of famous PC title League of Legends
Before making the mobile adaptation of League of Legends named Wild Rift and launching it in October of 2020, Riot Games had researched the world about mobile gaming. Having a good comparison through Tencent’s Honor of Kings, Riot Games had strongly analyzed the strongest mobile gaming continent of Asia. Riot soon saw the extent of profit behind the sub-platform was and tried their shot, ending up with success. As of now, all of Riot’s mobile games have made $15 million to $60 million each in lifetime revenue, according to Sensor Tower and App Annie. Even though this does not come close to the impact of Tencent’s “Honor of Kings” in overall Asia, it still gives Riot a good idea of how popular their games might get in the future.
The overall successful switch to the mobile platform did not rise suddenly though. In 2016, Riot had bought a mobile game company, Jolly Company. It was supposed to help Riot Games understand the world of mobile gaming better. Jolly Company’s owner, Michael Chow is currently the executive producer of League of Legends: Wild Rift.
Asking him about the early planning stage of Wild Rift, Chow revealed that “At that time, there was common wisdom that a mobile game would cost two to three million dollars to make. Both me and my team at Jolly as well as Riot believed that it was probably more than an order of magnitude off in terms of what we expected we needed to invest for players, to be able to deliver them something that they deserved.”
Success in keeping players
Apparently, the investment risk has paid out its fee, since according to App Annie and Sensor Tower players have spent around $60 million on in-game purchases. A reason for that might be the loyal fanbase a League game creates. “The reason ‘League of Legends’ is big isn’t because we’re great at acquiring players. It’s big because we’re great at not losing people,” said Merrill. This would support the idea that a regular player would be more inclined to spend money on a game in comparison to a casual/first-time player.
Challenges in shifting to mobile genre
This successful transition into the mobile genre did not come from anything. Riot had to deal with a lot of challenges while bringing their games like Teamfight Tactics or Legends of Runeterra onto almost every functioning phone. Variables such as smaller screens, lower battery life, lower storage, and computing power had to be thought about and considered. Because of that, some options had to been cut out from the mobile versions like the in-game chat of TFT.
Especially, Runeterra had a rough upbringing. To bring up the mobile version at the same time as its PC counterpart, Riot Games delayed their initial launch of Runeterra from 6 months to almost 2 years later. This was not well-received amongst some employees who worked on the older version, which made them leave the project for others.
There were even factors outside of the game development which was new for the Riot team to deal with. Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store would generally take some time to review updates. Therefore, Riot tried to submit their updates one to two weeks in advance to the time when they would like players to receive an update.
These struggles did not stop Riot Games from creating more than one mobile game. Even if they arrived late to the mobile world, Merrill’s view is that “It doesn’t matter much. If you can show up to the platform with an incredible experience that has sufficient gravitational pull or differentiation in some way, to get people to want to come to join that experience.” It’s the dedication and hard work which has been noted when put into a proper release, similar to Riot Games did with their releases. “That’s how we have historically looked at platforms,” said Merrill.
What are your thoughts on the vision of Riot Games towards mobile gaming and its plans on the future? Do let us know in the comments below!