A week before Christmas, Riot Games dropped a little surprise on its fans: the studio is indeed working on an MMO in the League of Legends universe. Greg Street, Vice President of Intellectual Property and Entertainment at Riot, disclosed no other details or release timing, but he did stress that his new role at the company involves further developing the LoL universe. Riot has hinted at the possibility of an MMO for a few years, and its development fits squarely into the overarching Disney-like strategy to extend its leading MOBA franchise in new and exciting directions.
We’ve already seen Riot widen the scope of LoL with digital card game Legends of Runeterra, mobile MOBA Wild Rift, a new single-player RPG focus at Riot Forge, and an upcoming animated series. Incorporating a greater narrative element and building up the lore of Runeterra gives fans an opportunity to form attachments to characters and stories that should lead to improved retention for the IP as a whole – not unlike what Disney has accomplished with the Marvel Universe and Star Wars.
There’s no guarantee that a LoL MMO (a genre outside Riot’s core competency) will succeed on the same scale as the flagship MOBA, but Street is one of several Riot employees with a Blizzard pedigree who worked on World of Warcraft for years; Street was a lead systems designer for 5+ years on WoW and was instrumental in balancing the game’s PvP element. This experience should prove quite valuable as Riot develops the new MMO.
Esports has been seeing greater integration within MMOs of late as well, as WoW’s Race to World First events have demonstrated. Once the new LoL game hits the market and a community forms around it, there’s a good chance for some competitive events to take shape. Interpret’s New Media Measure® shows that 42% of those playing an MMO during the past three months also watch esports.