This week, Riot Games has announced more content in one event than any other gaming company has that I can remember. Riot Games is celebrating the 10 year anniversary of their flagship game “League of Legends”. For 10 years, Riot Games has only had that one title in their lineup. This year saw the release of their first new permanent game mode “Team Fight Tactics” (for more on the genre of auto battlers, see my previous blog post). They have now announced (get ready for it): TFT Mobile (mobile port of existing title), League of Legends port for mobile and console, Legends of Runeterra (hearthstone-esque card game), “Project A” (Overwatch meets CS:GO), “Project F” (MMORPG rumored to be diablo-esque dungeon crawler), “Project L” (fighting game using LoL characters), “Esports Manager” (an esports team builder game), and a new board game.
What stood out to me was just how many games fit the very specific genres made popular by Blizzard, Legends of Runeterra, Project A, and Project F would be the equivalent of Blizzard’s Hearthstone, Overwatch, and Diablo. It’s no secret that these new games are meant to draw from the same user base as Blizzard’s titles. Blizzard has been needing competition for a very long time. Riot Games isn’t just knocking on Blizzard’s door, they’re kicking it down with guns blazing. League of Legends alone has more monthly users than Blizzard’s entire catalog.
What makes these announcements even better for Riot is the fact the Blizzard is currently public enemy number one in the gaming community. They have been banning players left and right for speaking up in support of Hong Kong. This isn’t a political blog and I’m not going to argue about morals here. But facts are facts, and the fact is that the western gaming community is incredibly frustrated by Blizzard and believes them to be bowing to Tencent and catering to the Chinese audience. Now, catering to an audience as huge as the Chinese is smart, but doing it in a way that makes it seem like you’re choosing one audience over the other is definitely not smart.
If Riot games wants to take away some of the market share that Blizzard has, now is best time, the timing is just too convenient. Marc Merrill (CEO of Riot Games), is probably having a pretty damn good week.
Competition is good, unless Blizzard wants to become “Gentle Snow Fall”, they need to start innovating. They need to start fighting back. This will be a historical battle, remember Blue-ray vs HD DVD? Andy Grove, one of the founders of Intel, says that “Only the paranoid survive”. If I was Blizzard, I would shaking in my boots. I’m excited to see these two large gaming and esports companies duke it out.