Phil Kollar has delivered a must-read profile in Polygon. It’s a definitive look at the birth, growth, and development of one of the most important eSports businesses in the world.
Writes Kollar: “The story of Riot Games is a list of things that shouldn’t have been possible.”
“It’s the tale of an extremely difficult, user-unfriendly game reaching untold heights of success. It’s the story of a company that has remained committed to listening to and interacting with its fans even as it at has grown exponentially. More than anything, it’s the story of two best friends who liked playing video games and decided one day to make their own.”
“Riot is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, but to really know how one of the world’s biggest development studios got started, you need to go back to Los Angeles in the early aughts. You need to find two University of Southern California business students who formed a bond unrelated to their studies.”
- The key insight that led founders Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck to launch the studio: “Of all the problems that Merrill and Beck saw in game development, one stood out: Developers were abandoning their games and the active, passionate communities attached to them far too quickly.”
- They also recognized an approach that existing publishers didn’t understand well: “The team at Riot wanted to create an online, multiplayer-focused game that would keep growing, changing and evolving indefinitely. And it wanted to make that game free, funded by optional microtransactions. In 2007, traditional game publishers had barely heard of such a model, much less considered it viable.”
- On connecting leagues and game development: “Beck, Merrill and a growing esports staff at Riot came up with a huge plan: Rather than letting unorganized third-party tournaments be the focus for League of Legends esports, Riot wanted to run its own leagues. This would include creating high quality competitive broadcasts weekly and coming up with a yearlong schedule of professional League of Legends gaming.”