Cianán Clancy


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5th May 2017

Riots E-Sport Strategy – Are they missing a trick?

By Cianán Clancy

League of Legends (LoL) was a relatively new entrant in the world of Multiplayer Online Battle Arena when it launched back in 2009. Building upon the popularity of world-famous titles such as Warcraft and DOTA it quickly began to develop a global following and became Riot Games’ Flagship title, driving the company from a small indie studio to a $1 billion+ company today.

League of Legends is now the most popular online PC game in the world in terms of hours played. It has an active user base of over a 100 million players every month and it has been consistently ranked as the most watched game in the world on and Youtube Gaming.

Despite the game’s incredible success, LoL tournament prizes lag way behind the ones offered by DOTA. As an example, the highest prize money ever offered at a LoL tournament was at the LoL World Championship 2016 which had a combined prize of $5.07 million. That same year the DOTA 2 International Tournament 2016 had a combined prize of $20.7 million, four times that of LoL.

The following tables compares 10 biggest tournaments from both LoL and DOTA 2

Tournament Name Prize Money
1.Lol 2016 World Championship $5,070,000.00
2.Lol 2014 World Championship $2,130,000.00
3.Lol 2015 World Championship $2,130,000.00
4.Lol Season 3 WC $2,050,000.00
5.Lol Season 2 WC $1,970,000.00
6.Lpl Spring 2016 $540,291.50
7.Lpl Summer 2016 $526,799.00
8.Mid-Season Invitational 2016 $450,000.00
9.Lpl Summer 2015 $391,481.80
10.Lpl Spring 2015 $378,782.40
Tournament Name Prize Money
1.The International 2016 $20,770,640.00
2.The International 2015 $18,429,613.05
3.The International 2014 $10,931,103.00
4.DAC 2015 $3,057,521.00
5.The Boston Major 2016 $3,000,000.00
6.The Frankfurt Major 2015 $3,000,000.00
7.The Manila Major 2016 $3,000,000.00
8.The Shangai Major 2016 $3,000,000.00
9.The International 2013 $2,874,407.00
10.The International 2011 $1,600,00.00

The difference can be attributed to a lot of things DOTA does e.g. the sales of Compendium or Battle passes which are interactive booklets that include tournament tickets, exclusive cosmetic items etc. 25% from every sale of Compendium is added to The International, DOTA’s biggest tournament, which is the primary reason why DOTA tournaments have the largest prize pool in the world.

LoL tried a similar system where they added 25% of all sales from two of their ZED skins in the championship prize pool. It didn’t go to plan and speaking to the community unlike DOTA Compendiums which most players actually buy, not a lot of LoL players were interested in buying ZED skins - resulting in a relatively low prize pool.

It is true that LoL is far bigger than DOTA in terms of number of players, viewers, and revenue generated but despite DOTA’s steep learning curve for new players, huge prize pools are a big draw for gamers and if the situation continues, there is no reason to believe that DOTA might one day eclipse LoL. Hence, in order to stay competitive in the long-run LoL can take simple measures to improve its championships especially for their dedicated players who long to be part of the world’s biggest tournament.

Riot games can ensure players do not need to purchase champions in order to play them. This alone has the potential to attract a whole new segment towards the game. Also, Lol puts too much focus on big players from a few powerful markets such as China, Korea, Europe and the US. They should give chances to players from other regions that might otherwise have been ignored e.g. India, Russia, Brazil etc.

Also, pooling in 25% of revenues from just two skins won’t go too far in increasing the championship prize. A simpler and more effective idea would to contribute 25% of sales of ALL LoL skins to the tournament, which has the potential to boost the prize pool.

Food for thought over at Riot Europe HQ in Dublin.