Riot Games, the heart of the game

 Ever wondered what makes a new esports game stand out, what attracts the players to take part in competing against each other and mainly, to win? Esports Insider had an interesting interview with Graham Ashton, the External Affairs Manager at Riot Games EMEA, about his thoughts on the subject.

The foundation of any new esports scene is obviously the game, but the title makes it stand out above the rest. Figuring out the title and what works is fundamental and crucial to finding its place in the esports pyramid.  There is unfortunately no straightforward answer, and it is not easy to find.  

To explore the topic, Esports Insider spoke to one of the industry’s biggest competitors and one of the world’s most successful publishers, Riot Games.  Riot Games has established noteworthy multi-regional esports scenes with titles such as League of Legends and Valorant. Additionally, the company has become a well-known reference in competitive gaming. Riot Games is a reference for a publisher that closely supports and promotes its esport games.

According to Ashton; “From the development side, you need to have an engaging gameplay concept that, even if working within a historically successful genre, needs to offer some unique experience.”

Game concepts suitable for competition

Riot Games adds that the competitive balance of a game is the main challenge to overcome therefore new features, characters, and abilities are constantly implemented in their esports titles.  Ashton explained, “A balanced team needs to be adept at finding a comfortable middle ground between commercial and player experience needs.”  Regardless, granting those game concepts are suitable for competition, it does not build a strong scene by itself.  Riot also highlights that community management efforts are instrumental for a title to grow in esports.

Graham Ashton

“You want gamers to feel like they are part of something unique,” said Ashton. “No esport can succeed without an amateur/grassroots scene, and so there needs to be clear guidelines and tools to help third-party tournament organizers bring their games to local competitors and audiences.”

“Streaming esports titles is essential to their longevity,”

There will be no competition if there aren’t any fans willing to watch it and that is part of Riot Games’ strategy; broadcasting the matches is a theme approach by Riot Games.  “Streaming esports titles is essential to their longevity,” says Ashton.  He also mentions that the accessibility of broadcasting the game is part of the fundamentals of making a great esport game.

The publisher also spoke about their new policies that were adopted in 2020 regarding streaming their official competitions by third-party creators.  According to Ashton, “It encourages a set of high-level players to spend considerable time honing their skills on your platform. Their competitive achievements bring in more viewers who in turn might become fans of your game themselves if they are not already.”

In addition, Riot Games highlights that they aim to build a multi-generational fanbase as well as foster local communities and build a strong ecosystem.  “Fans must feel represented, and our partners should believe and invest in the future of the competition. We can’t achieve this if we treat esports purely as a marketing endeavor.  With all this in mind, a forced esport will struggle to succeed, and the journey from a new game to a thriving competitive ecosystem doesn’t happen overnight. There are a number of factors here, predominantly attracting and maintaining a player base who will grow and eventually form a strong esports community and, if you’re truly successful, multiple generations of talented players”, Ashton said.

To learn more about the fundamentals of esports, the ISFE’s Guide to Esport is a great starting point for understanding all the players and factors involved in this market.

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