Riot Games pulled out nearly every stop imaginable, and then just kept going. During a stream in celebration of League of Legends’ tenth anniversary, the studio unveiled a host of new projects with which it hopes to expand its flagship title, the world that underpins it, and its own status as a major publisher.
The broadcast started out relatively low-key, with announcements regarding the return of popular game mode URF and ten days of gifts that players will receive simply for logging in over the course of the next few days. Riot also announced that it’ll be expanding its social impact fund, announcing a new skin, Dawnbringer Karma - 100% of the proceeds of which will be donated to charities chosen by players from LoL's different regions.
As Worlds rumbles on, the game is reaching the end of its yearly competitive cycle, so Riot used the anniversary stream to explore the pre-season: a yearly period of significant change. Previous years have introduced overhauls to major systems, but the new season will see an entirely overhauled map. According to product manager Jessica Nam, the new-look Summoner’s Rift will introduce emergent strategies, changing during the course of the game depending on the neutral objectives that players capture, potentially tearing the competitive meta asunder. The new season will also herald the arrival (or perhaps return) of new champion Senna, whose tragic story underwrites one of League of Legends’ deepest narrative rivalries, while Teamfight Tactics is getting a series of new units in an attempt to ensure that the autobattler stays fresh.
Those announcements are meaty changes to Riot’s pre-existing games, but the studio was far from finished. First, it showed off Wild Rift, not only confirming rumours around a mobile version of the game, but revealing that LoL is coming to consoles. Wild Rift isn’t a direct port of the PC version, but a slightly faster version of the game. It won’t have all champions available, but those missing characters have been replaced with a full visual remaster, bringing champions to life in a way that’s dramatically different to LoL’s current art style.
Riot still wasn’t done. Riffing on a long-running community meme, it confirmed not one new game, but four (as well as hinting at another), running the genre gamut. The broadcast offered the first look at a fighting game starring characters including Garen, Darius, Ahri, and Katarina; it showed off an FPS set in a near-future earth (and outside of the LoL IP); it hinted at an esports management game and an isometric multiplayer RPG, and lifted the lid on CCG Legends of Runeterra. Most of those teams say they’re going dark until they have more to show off, but LoR is available to play in limited preview patches right now, and will arrive in closed beta early next year.
Not content with one artistic medium, Riot closed out its broadcast by announcing Arcane, an animated series releasing in 2020 and set in the steampunk and biopunk cities of Piltover and Zaun. An early trailer didn’t give much away but did show that, while a group of new characters will take centre stage, in-game champion Jinx will be making at least one appearance.
The tenth anniversary of one of the biggest games in the world was always going to be big, but Riot surpassed my expectations and has positioned itself as a multi-genre, multi-platform, multimedia publisher. We’ll have to wait and see how successful these new projects will be at attracting and expanding the company's already-huge playerbase but, for Riot at least, last night’s stream looked like an industry-shifting step forward.