Riot’s Xbox Game Pass deal could bolster esports ecosystem

During the recent Xbox & Bethesda showcase, Microsoft’s studios revealed a wide portfolio of new content coming to the platform over the next year, but one of the more impactful announcements concerned some already well-known games that are making their way to the growing Xbox Game Pass lineup. Riot Games announced that it will be bringing its PC and formerly mobile-only games like Wild Rift to the subscription service, along with some enticing perks for Riot fans.

For example, in League of Legends, Game Pass members will be able to unlock all 160+ champions and receive day-one access to each new champion as it’s released; in Wild Rift, members will gain all 80+ champions and day-one access to future champions; in Valorant, members can unlock all 18 agents and get access to new agents as they become available. Players will be rewarded with bonus experience in some titles as well.

For Microsoft, bringing highly touted free-to-play games to its subscription service is another feather in the company’s cap as it continues to dabble in the free-to-play space (Halo Infinite’s multiplayer, for example, was totally free). Moreover, Riot’s portfolio has global appeal and draws considerable interest from the esports community. These are two areas where the Xbox team has been looking to expand its footprint. By offering the world’s leading esport in League of Legends, along with the abovementioned champions perk, there’s a good opportunity for more of the PC-centric esports world to pay more attention to Xbox. And, the addition of these games to the Xbox platform represents a continued blurring of platform lines, especially when factoring in cloud gaming through Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

As for Riot Games, there’s clearly some synergy with the Xbox ecosystem that the publisher can capitalize on. According to Interpret’s New Media Measure®, Xbox owners have shown more interest in watching tournaments, non-tournament matches, and videos about Riot’s biggest esports titles than the general gaming population. Adding these games to the Game Pass program not only gives the Xbox audience the opportunity to play the games they’re already interested in, but Riot is likely to gain exposure from new fans playing on Xbox who might not have participated in some of these titles yet due to their PC- or mobile-centric nature.

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