League of Legends has been a powerhouse in the world of eSports and continues to bring in tons of players. With season 11 just around the corner, we will answer the big question. Why is this game so popular?
It’s Free to Play
This has got to be one of the biggest reasons that League grew so fast and continues to bring in new players. The game itself is free to play. That doesn’t mean you can’t spend money. Riot games gives you ample reason to buy in-game items by creating awesome content on a regular basis.
From skins to emotes, there are things to spend real dollars on, but none of these things are mandatory to play the game. You can also spend real dollars to unlock champions, but this is unnecessary as well since you can grind in game currency to unlock the champions as well. It is a little more time consuming but keeps the game free to play.
It is Not Pay to Win
There is nothing more frustrating to a gamer that finding out the game you have been playing is Pay to Win. Pay to Win means that unless you use real world dollars to purchase certain items in the game that you have no ability to be competitive. This creates situations where players who are terrible at the game can dominate much better players by simply paying for it.
While League of Legends has plenty of things to buy, the big key is that none of things that you purchase with real dollars give you a competitive advantage. You can buy cosmetic skins to change your Champions’ look. You can buy skins for your wards or emotes to use to communicate passive-aggressively, but you cannot purchase something that gives you a clear power spike over your opponent.
This appears to have worked in Riot games’ favor. Other games have followed suit and found similar popularity as well. Look at Rocket League for example. Competitive games are just more fun when they are not Pay to Win and that keeps their popularity increasing over time.
League of Legends is Easy to Play
The mechanics of the game are not difficult to learn. The tutorials and opening content prepare you well for the larger cooperative play. While it is an easy game to pick up, it is a difficult game to master which brings players back again and again to keep increasing their skill. I think the sustained popularity of League largely comes from the desire to keep honing your skills to prove your ultimate dominance of the competition.
There is a large community of content creators on platforms like YouTube and Twitch that provide gameplay and commentary. Aspiring players can watch some of the best and learn the game at a much deeper level. This facilitates growth as a player and provides entertainment at the same time.
The Progression is Largely Skill Based
Since you cannot buy an advantage, the game rewards players for their skill. Each new match starts from scratch, so previous wins or loses do not influence the current game. You build items for the current game only. Unlike games like World of Warcraft where you continually build you character to unbelievable stats, League makes every player start at level one for that game and you progress to level 18 as you gain experience in that particular match.
In theory, everyone has the exact same opportunity to win at the beginning of each match. This allows the players with the most skill to rise to the top. As you continue to get better at the game, you can move up higher in the rankings.
The Ranked System
It is fun to play a game with something on the line. A lot of games now have a system of more competitive ranked play. League of Legends may not have been the first to implement it, but it is the gold standard other games try to copy. You can choose to play the game casually or in a more competitive ranked environment. By playing ranked, you are placed on a ladder compared to other players in your geographical area. The game theory would suggest that if everything was even, you should win 50% of the games that you play. In general, if you have a win rate of over 50% you win begin to climb the ladder slowly. Win rates under 50% will lower your ranking over time.
The ranking system allows you to compete against only the people of your same skill level as you climb. So, a new player would not be matched up against one of the top players in the world. They would be matched with a group of players who are either new, or of lower skill. As you get better at the game, your competition will become fiercer.
The ranking system has a good tier set up that gives a lot of room to segment players ranging from Iron at the bottom to Challenger at the top. This combined with your in -game performance helps keep games more competitive.
The Style of the Game is Enjoyable
League does have some frustrating elements to it – most notably its open communication with potentially toxic players. However, the overall gameplay is enjoyable and repeatable. The MOBA style game takes you away from the standard first or third person and drops into a much more strategic environment. The large champion pool and continued balancing efforts make the game fresh with each patch or update. Seasons mark the biggest changes to overall gameplay and season 11 begins soon with some of the largest updates the game has seen in a while.
The Professional Scene
League of Legends has a big eSports presence worldwide. The best players across the globe are recruited by eSports teams to play the game professionally. League draws huge crowds in person and online to watch professional play. This adds to the overall popularity of the game. Seeing the best players in the world do incredible things with their individual and team play makes you want to spend some time improving your game.
This vibrant professional play scene gives hope to aspiring gamers that someday they too could be a professional player. This increasing the number of players continuing to invest time into the game.
The Growing College Scene
The continued success of professional play has pushed down into colleges and high schools. eSports teams are becoming common in both high school and college programs. Some schools are treating eSports competitors like their other athletes and providing scholarship opportunities for their play.
It is great to see how eSports is becoming more and more prominent. These scholarships can lead to professional play or enable students to get a great education. High school students are being afforded these opportunities as well as schools are opening up eSports team all across the country.
How Long Will It Stay Popular?
It is hard to tell how long League of Legends will last. It is continuing to implement new content and changes to gameplay in an effort to keep it fresh. I think the biggest indicators to it long term success will be in the professional environment.
As long as the professional League of Legends players draw a crowd, its popularity is safe. Once interest dwindles at the highest level, it will be just a matter of time before it filters its way down to the player base.