Today, the Wall Street Journal reported that League of Legends, the smash-hit game from Riot Games has reached a new peak of players at 27 million globally. That’s a lot of people, no matter how you look at it, and if you’re not playing it you’re probably wondering how it’s so popular. So here’s a few reasons as to why it might just deserve its spot as the most popular game in the world.
It is easy to get in to
With 27 million players, every single one of them had to have started somewhere. While the game is similar to Valve’s DOTA2 or the original Defence of the Ancients mod, it has a definite lower learning curve. The game was designed from the ground-up to be easier to learn than its competitors, and players are taught the absolute basics through the game’s tutorials. There is also loads of explanatory content on the internet, hosted by various fan-sites and communities.
It appeared at the right time
League of Legends’ came at a time where its competitors were wavering. S2 Games had butchered their game, Heroes of Newerth, from its original, quite-fun Defence of the Anicents clone to a pay-to-win cash grab that was a mockery of the players and genre. Players were looking for something to flee to, and League of Legends was there and available. There was literally no other game to go to, so people flocked to League of Legends from Heroes of Newerth, professionals and staff-members alike. It was different enough to be a lot of fun for the new and the experienced, and Riot Games interact with the community in a way that was both refreshing and caring.
There’s always someone to play with, and it’s more fun with friends
You can only learn so much from text explanations and the game’s basic tutorial, though. The only way to refine your mechanical skills at the game is to play, and thanks to the millions of players scattered throughout the world, I guarantee there is a community of some size near you no matter where you are. There are dozens around Australia, with thousands of people who play together, who represent a small fraction of the game’s global player-base.
It always changes
Riot Games have historically taken a rapid approach to changing and balancing the game. Due to the nature of League of Legends, with over 100 champions to play, the game will never be truly balanced and something will always be better than something else. Riot Games approach this by tweaking the champions that are problematic in either the game’s casual or professional scenes. Some people are of the opinion that Riot Games are too focused on only balancing the ‘good’ champions, but I’m just glad they keep their content fresh every few weeks. Coupled with the massive, yearly patch they release, every year League of Legends becomes a brand-new game.
League of Legends is an online game, and because of this, it is highly affected by network latency. It’s a fast-paced game, so playing half a second behind everyone else puts you at a massive disadvantage. In the beginning, this is how everyone played – the only servers were in America and in Europe, and everyone else in the world had to make do with the lag. Nowadays, that isn’t the case: servers are located in China, in Korea, in Singapore, in Sydney, in Turkey, Western Europe and all through South America and there are more coming to places such as Japan and Eastern Europe. It’s everywhere. Playing on your local server is the most convenient, and makes the game the most enjoyable because it feels the most responsive. As well as this, it means there is a Riot Games presence related to your experience of the game, which means local experiences and competitions related to your region are frequent and a lot of fun.
It has become “the thing” in eSports
For years, StarCraft was the thing to play competitively in Korea. TV channels on professional games, stadiums filled to the brim with fans, and top-tier professionals were treated as major celebrities in the country. But that’s not totally the case anymore. Thanks to League of Legends’ release in Korea, it has usurped the title of most popular game and has or a few years now. Korean players are also really good at the game; the best in the world, in fact. This is easy to judge from how Riot Games runs the competitive scene.
In countries with a high population of players, Riot Games run or are involved in running professional-scale tournaments. North America and Europe have individual League of Legends Championship Series (known as “LCS”); Korea has the OGN tournament; China has LPL and even Singapore has its own tournament. Playing through these tournaments, eventually the year’s professional scene culminates into the World Championship, where the best teams in the world play off in front of hundreds of thousands people watching in- person and online.
In 2013, this was hosted in the Staples Centre, home of the Los Angeles Lakers, and all the tickets – capacity for the venue – were sold within an hour. 2014 is slated to be even bigger, with the Championship being hosted in Korea and with Riot’s tendency to outdo themselves every year.
There’s a lot of reasons as to why League of Legends is so popular. Some are listed here, some are personal opinion, some are fact, and there’s many more that aren’t present here. It is really hard to narrow the success down to just a handful of reasons, and if these ones don’t do it for you, there are sure to be reasons that do.