Theory Project: Business and Development

Chapter by Chapter Breakdown


To what extent has
Riot Games developed and merged League of Legends on both the casual and
competitive level from 2010 to 2017?





Chapter 1:
League of Legends on the Casual Level of Play

Chapter 2:
Competitive Play – League of Legends as an e-Sport

Chapter 3:
Merging Casual and Competitive Play through Executive Ownership





Above is a small
passage of what the introduction will contain. Within this piece of the
dissertation, the e-sports business as a whole will be introduced, including what
the biggest competitive leagues within the industry have been, and noting the
downfalls of others. This will act as an introduction to e-sports business, and
help contextualize the research question within the industry as a whole, rather
than solely look at the accomplishments of League of Legends. It also acts as a
segue to introducing Riot Games, and the births of the competitive and casual
sides of their game.


                      With knowledge on both the
e-sports industry and League of Legends as a whole, the research question will
be further investigated, looking more into what the purpose of asking this question
serves, and what it will be looking into. The terms casual and competitive will
be further defined as well, to specify exactly what the question will be
investigating. As mentioned in a previous assignment, the question is being
addressed for three different points:

understand how League of Legends has amassed large success in both the casual
and competitive sides.

determine whether similar strategies to that of Riot Games can be applied to
different e-sports to further their stance in the industry, or if it is
exclusive to League of Legends.

to make
conclusions about whether or not the current and future league infrastructures
will be able to function as well as it has


In order to
determine each of these points, different methodologies will be used to explore
the change in casual play over the years alongside competitive play, as well
any business models put in place by Riot. The methodologies will then be
introduced briefly, going into their function and the sources that will be
examined through them.

these methodologies will be:

Textual Analysis


Free-to-Play Business Model

Porter’s 5 Forces Framework


Literature Review:


                      Finally, Riot’s acts in
improving competitive League of Legends will be evaluated, specifically looking
at sponsorships and certain business models undertaken. These points will all
help in providing a basis of understanding before determining what has enabled
League of Legends to remain one of the premier online games and e-sports
of recent time.


The literature
review will be written under different sections and each section will contain
multiple sources on the given topic.


E-Sports as an
Industry and the Professionalization of Computer Gaming:


The largest quarry
that is discussed under the topic of e-Sports is its relation to traditional
sports, whether it is legible to be considered a sport. The concern that comes
with through sentiment is that it strays the definition of sports away from
including physical activity. However, due to ever-growing technological
progress, human values have naturally changed in determining what is considered
a sport; the emergence of e-Sports can be attributed to the change from the
industrial society to the more communication and information based ones
(Wagner, 2006). With that said, organizations coming from traditional sports
businesses therefore see a need to “traditionalize” e-Sports.

                      “By providing the right
production values and storytelling, we will raise the sport to a new level.” This
quote was given by the CEO of the Championship Gaming Series when discussing
what the newfound e-Sports company would aim to do upon inception (Taylor,
2012). Although the GCS’s aim was well intended and promising, when it came to
both the competitors and the audience, they began to prioritize the focus on
making an appealing entertainment medium, rather than showing a game that the
audience would have preferred. “Ultimately, game choices were very much driven
by the need to produce a compelling televised product…” (Taylor, 2012). It was
clear that, although there were small influencers that had previously worked
with pro-gaming working with the company, the executive team worked under a
traditional North American sport mind-set, and the company was built
differently than most other e-sport ventures. This case study specifically
speaks to how competitive computer gaming would be handled if it were to
primarily be covered by mainstream media (Taylor, 2012).

                      Instead, e-Sports is a
very open industry when it comes to coverage, ranging from social media,
in-game advertisement, to online videos and streams. This openness attributes
to the fact that everything related to the e-Sport is coordinated by the game’s
developer, rather than one large organization such as the NBA.

When determining
how e-Sports are advertised, pro-players are usually what develop a deeper
intrigue by the fan base. This undermines what happens behind the scenes; there
are people running the production, helping the players, letting them develop
and become who they are, and if e-Sports were ever to attain a permanent place
in mainstream media, these people would not be the ones that the focus would be
on (Taylor, 2012). Therefore, when the player focus is coupled with a game’s
outreach, the image and portrayal of certain pro players have a correlation to
competitive viewership.

                      To add on to this point,
success in an e-Sport is more common when a business is responsible for both
advertisement and player control. The GCS study highlights how the
sport-related visions that external organizations have would fail in comparison
to a more successful approach that the original game developer would take. Having
full authority of what goes on in both the game and the e-sport is therefore
beneficial to the development of said sport; it is about executive ownership.

(Sources used: Taylor,


Ownership in e-Sports:


E-Sports are
alternative sport realities, they electronically extend athletes in digitally
represented sporting worlds. Games usually gain acceptance as ‘E-Sports’ once
they have been selected for official inclusion in an international E-Sports
competition” (Karhulahti, 2017). Executive ownership is one of the largest
factors when determining a successful e-Sport organizations, as having full
control over both a game and its league enables the two to develop.

executive owner is much more than an interdependent component; it literally
(re)writes the rules of its game, supplies the essential technology, and
ultimately decides on the existence of the sport as a whole (Karhulahti, 2017).
An executive owner, is an openly profit-making institution, usually a game
development company. Most of these companies manage several e-Sport (and other)
products at once. The e-Sports that executive owners govern belong to their
business models, which demarcate the ways in which the products get developed,
distributed, and maintained (Karhulahti, 2017).


                      A primary example of a
business model implemented by an executive owner is League of Legends, where
monetization is used solely for aesthetical-visual enhancements, while the game
is completely free to play.

With that said, many
e-Sport games have seen major success in their time while making large
financial profits. However due to the lack of an overarching government within
the industry, if these games and their developers start to become unprofitable
financially, the effect it has on the game as an e-Sport is much larger than
that of a regular sport (Karhulahti, 2017).


                      The points brought up
about executive ownership lead to how much control the owners have over their
own e-Sport comparative to any other traditional sports and the steps that
these owners have to take in order to keep the e-Sport afloat. This even
includes how e-Sports are played on specific servers and cannot be played
without the executive owners allowing it to be. It also includes how the owners
must keep the game up-to-date with current gaming standards.

                      Almost all e-Sports are
governed by executive owners, and the decisions taken by these owners are vital
in creating long-term success for their game.


 (Sources used: Karhulahti)


League of
Legends: The Casual Level of Play


League of Legends is a free-to-play game, and as such follows a
free-to-play (F2P) revenue model; a business model in which a game is free, but
uses other means of monetizing their players. This model can be found to either
benefit or hinder a game, the latter usually seeing failure due to exploitative
games design aimed at short-term profits rather than large-term player
engagement (Alha, 2014). Beneficially, the model allows for flexible price
points amongst players in different financial situations, and enables a wider
range of player-types to access a game (Alha, 2014). As stated by Hamari
(2010), the games-as-service approach enables
the developers to iteratively tweak game mechanics to better address the goals
of customer acquisition, retention and monetization. League of Legends makes
the larger portion of its monetary success through micro-transactions, and this
can be attributed to the way the game design ties in with Riot Games’ approach
to the F2P model.

competitive online games like League of Legends, player behavior control
becomes a large influence on a game’s community and outreach towards newer
players. Methods of shaping player behavior are quintessential in the structure
of play in the casual form, but many game developers believe that toxicity and
online gaming go hand-in-hand, and the best solution to this is to ban or
suspend every toxic player (Lin, 2013). This method of addressing player
behavior is functional, however not ideal in retaining a player base. During
the beginning stages of League of Legends, it was shown that the majority of
people who stopped playing was due to the player behavior control (Lin, 2013).
As such Riot Games made a change to their toxicity control system, in the
creation of the Tribunal and Honor, two systems that would hope to shape better
behavior in players.


finish off, an overview of fandom’s importance in e-Sports will be given, as
well as the overarching impact it has on the development of a game, i.e. League
of Legends.

 (Sources used: Alha, Lin, Taylor)


League of
Legends: The E-Sport and Riot Games’ Approach to the Industry


As the e-sports industry continues to
grow, ”

start with a quick part on the
e-sports industry but specifically League of Legends’ stance within it. Mention
that there are ways of determining this, segue into Michael porter’s 5 forces
framework and what this framework does. finish with sponsorship.


alternatively, go off on porters
framework and what it enables to see, but also mention its not heavily applied
to esports. then mention sponsorships affect too, then go on about sponsorship
in e-sports, how it is approached and why it is used – what leads to the success.


mp its more like, does it fit this model, is that the reason their success can
be attributed, or is this model shit on them. who knows. does it even apply.


Going back to executive ownership,
Riot’s ability to make their own decisions for their e-Sport is favourable as
they are able to dictate any business models or changes that need to be
implemented in order to help their game thrive. Along with the aforementioned
casual changes, sponsorships are also taken into consideration when providing
information on the growth of League of Legends.


used: Chalmet, Hinnant, Porter)


Chapter 1: League of Legends on the
Casual Level of Play

After a small
introduction of casual play, the primary focus of this chapter will be introducing
its part in League of Legends. The chapter will be split up into different

The Free
to Play Business Model

Case Study
Comparison: Dota 2

In this section,
an analysis of the free-to-play model in League of Legends will be undertaken
to determine how it has helped the game grow, and what it does differently and
similarly from different game business models.


Here, the system
that Riot has put in place over the years to control toxicity will be looked
at, while also taking into consideration its effect on competitive League of


Finally, this
section will be considering Riot’s lasting impact on creating a fandom through
the casual game and promoting the e-Sport to this fandom.


By the end of this
chapter, the reader will know what casual is defined as and all the implementations
made on the casual level of League of Legends. As a conclusion, the control
that Riot Games have over these points will be re-stated, as well as its
relation to the competitive portion of the game. This will be backed up with
reference to timely events that occurred during the upbringing of the e-Sport.



Chapter 2: Competitive Play – League
of Legends as an e-Sport

This chapter will
focus on the competitive side of League of Legends and the business industry
that follows the e-Sport, as well as analyse Riot Games’ stance in the

To start,
statistics on competitive League of Legends will be provided to note its
overarching success within the industry. This will then be followed by applying
Michael Porter’s 5 Forces Framework to League of Legends in order to determine
Riot Games’ success in the industry and whether it is only attributed to
business decisions rather than ones of casual play.

                      Thereby, sponsorship will
be brought up and examine the ways this direction of marketing enabled competitive
play since the birth of the game’s e-Sport.

                      Finally, a comparison will
be drawn between League of Legends competitive play in the past and present,
what has changed and what has succeeded.



Chapter 3: Merging Casual and
Competitive Play through Executive Ownership


This chapter
focuses on analysing the developments in both casual and competitive play in
the context of executive ownership. It will firstly be looking at any
correlations between the two types of play, then delve into executive ownership
going in conjunction with Riot Games’ ownership over League of Legends and how
it has retained success for their business. “Having full authority over
sanctioned-events, as well as advertisement and players allows the two forms of
play to merge cohesively.”

An analysis of
this executive ownership will also be conducted, determining how League of
Legends has fared in the rest of the e-Sport economy. This includes looking at
Riot’s business models for both casual and competitive play, and critically
evaluating them in comparison to other e-Sport models.

                      Finally, a conclusion will
be made on the extent of executive ownership’s impact on the success of both
casual and competitive play, and whether or not this success can be attributed
to other factors.


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