Ten years ago Riot Games launched "League of Legends," a transformative title that changed the video game industry on its way to becoming one of the most popular PC games in the world.
"League of Legends" generated $1.4 billion in 2018 according to SuperData, and each day "LoL" sees about 8 million players logged in and playing during peak hours.
Riot is now one of America's largest video game companies, and its 10th anniversary celebration for "League of Legends" feels like a major arrival, bolstered by announcements for seven new games. Riot has more than 2,500 employees working in offices around the globe and the company is showing off the results after more than a decade of growth.
In an interview with Business Insider, Riot Games President and Cofounder Marc Merrill described "League of Legends" as a living entity that grows alongside its player base.
"There's always been this symbiotic relationship between Riot and the community," Merrill said.
'Yesterday's delight, becomes today's expectation, becomes a future grievance'
Merrill and cofounder Brandon Beck started Riot Games in 2006 after graduating from the University of Southern California. The pair was inspired by PC games including Blizzard Entertainment's "Starcraft" and "Warcraft," and a mod of "Warcraft 3" called "Defense of the Ancients." It took several years to launch "League of Legends," and Riot continues to update the game on a regular basis.
As a free-to-play title, "League of Legends" was one of the first modern games to establish itself as an ongoing service, defying the retail-first approach that dominated the industry at the time, and forgoing the monthly subscription models that supported popular online games like "World of Warcraft."
Player feedback has been a prime factor in "LoL's" constant updates, with Riot working to incorporate highly requested features while staying ahead of the lofty expectations of fans. Even when the game is at its best, the "League of Legends" hardcore fans are some of Riot's toughest critics.
"Yesterday's delight, becomes today's expectation, becomes a future grievance," Merrill said when asked about the ebb and flow of the development process. "How do we stay ahead of where things are going. How do we stay ahead and over deliver?"
This thought process has helped "League of Legends" amass a global community with millions of dedicated fans who are invested in everything from professional gaming leagues to live concert tours playing orchestrated "LoL" tracks.
Riot has certainly found a way to over deliver for "League's" 10th anniversary, revealing seven new upcoming games, a new "League of Legends" character, an animated series set in the "LoL" universe, and a documentary covering the first decade of "League of Legends" history.
Riot's celebration comes after a crisis of culture
It's quite the moment for Riot, and it follows a relatively tumultuous year that included a class action gender discrimination lawsuit being filed against the company. Riot settled the case with current and former employees in August and has undergone significant changes to repair the company's internal structure.
Merrill described the class action lawsuit and claims that Riot had fostered a sexist work environment as a failure that damaged the pride he took in building the company up to that point. He said he now views the situation as a learning opportunity for Riot to become the company employees really want it to be.
"Failure is an important part of learning, just like with anything where we let our community down," Merrill said. "It's a chance to see what happened and what we can do better."
Riot has been offering periodic updates on its efforts to improve diversity and inclusion, but the company is still facing investigation into sexual harassment, gender discrimination, and unequal pay between men and women at the company from the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.
But Riot is still working to change the way the world sees video games
"League of Legends" has one of the most popular professional esports circuits of any game and created a blueprint for video game publishers to take ownership of their competitive audience.
The "League of Legends" World Championship includes 24 professional teams representing 13 regions from around the world. Worlds began on October 2 and are swiftly moving towards the finals on November 10, with matches being held in Berlin, Madrid, and Paris. The Worlds prize pool starts at $2.25 million and will continue to increase with player purchases through November 6.
Between the hundreds of people staffing "LoL" esports events and self-employed gamers earning a living playing "LoL" on YouTube and Twitch, Riot has created a life-changing ecosystem around a single video game. Colleges are even creating their own competitive "League of Legends" teams and offering esports-focused degrees.
"There are thousands of jobs that revolve around 'League of Legends,' and those people don't work at Riot, and that's cool!" Merrill said.
Merrill said Riot has started getting grateful letters from parents now that "League of Legends" is leading to career and scholarship opportunities. As someone who grew up playing competitive computer games online, Merrill said he was happy to provide structure and stability to passionate players.
"It's treated with respect rather than condescension," Merrill said. "We're excited and optimistic to try and help elevate the culture of gaming so people can understand all the great value that exists."
Riot's newly announced games will branch out into new genres for the company, but "League of Legends" will continue to be the flagship franchise. The studio continues to emphasize community-focused games with online play, but Riot plans to move beyond PC gaming to mobile phones and consoles, too.
Check out all of Riot's upcoming projects to celebrate the 10th anniversary of "League of Legends."
"League of Legends: Wild Rift" is a new version of "LoL" built for consoles and mobile devices.
"League of Legends: Wild Rift" is a spin-off of the original "League of Legends," designed for mobile devices and consoles. Riot says "Wild Rift" isn't a direct port of "LoL" — it's a new game built from the ground up.
"Wild Rift" has a new control scheme for dual-analog sticks and games only last about 15 to 18 minutes, according to Riot.
"League of Legends: Wild Rift" will launch on mobile in 2020, and pre-registration on the Google Play Store is now available.
"Project A" is a character-based tactical shooter.
"Project A" is the only new game Riot showed that's not based in the "League of Legends" universe. The game is described as a competitive, character-based tactical shooter for PC, which sounds similar to Blizzard's "Overwatch."
Each character will have unique abilities and the game is set on Earth in the near future. More information, including an official title, will be revealed in 2020.
"Legends of Runeterra" is a competitive card game set in the "League of Legends" universe.
"Legends of Runeterra" is a free-to-play strategy card game set in the world of "League of "Legends." Players can purchase or acquire cards in-game and build their own decks to compete online.
The game is currently in beta testing on PC, but Riot plans to release "Legends of Runeterra" on both PC and mobile. "Legends of Runeterra" will compete with similar card strategy games like "Magic the Gathering: Arena" and "Hearthstone."
You can preregister for access to the beta on the official website.
Project L will be a "Street Fighter"-style fighting game featuring characters from "League of Legends."
Project L is a temporary codename for a fighting game set in the "League of Legends" universe. The game is in early stage development, but it's being built by the cofounders of Evo, the largest running fighting game tournament in the world.
Project F will be a cooperative adventure. It's still in development.
Project F is a temporary codename for a very early development project that lets players explore the "League of Legends" fantasy world of Runeterra with friends.
"Teamfight Tactics Mobile" is a turn-based strategy game for up to eight players.
Riot describes "Teamfight Tactics" as an auto-battler — a relatively new genre of competitive strategy games. "TFT" is an eight person free-for-all strategy game where players strategize with "LoL" champions and items to defeat the seven other players in each match.
Riot released a PC version of "Teamfight Tactics" earlier this year and said new characters and abilities will be added to the game every three-to-four months. "Teamfight Tactics" will launch on mobile devices in early 2020, bringing it to a brand-new audience.
"League of Legends Esports Manager" is a team management game that will allow fans to build their own "League of Legends" esports teams.
In "League of Legends Esports Manager," you'll take on the role of team manager, signing players to contracts, and more.
"LoL Esports Manager" will share revenue generated from the game with pro "League of Legends" teams featured in the game. The game will launch in China first during 2020, and will be expanded to other regions later.
"Riot Games' Arcane" is a Riot-produced animated series exploring two memorable "LoL" characters.
"Riot Games' Arcane" is a "League of Legends" animated series developed and produced by Riot Games releasing in 2020. Set in utopian Piltover and the oppressed underground of Zaun, the story follows "the origins of two iconic League champions — and the power that will tear them apart."
"League of Legends Origins" is a documentary following the first decade of "League of Legends" from the early stages of development.
"League of Legends Origins " is a feature-length documentary by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Leslie Iwerks. In it, Iwerks explores the rise of "LoL and the community that made LoL one of the most-played PC games in history and fastest growing sports in the world."
Iwerks travels the world to capture the highs and lows of making a global phenomenon, from the early days of development through the 2017 World Championship in the Beijing National Stadium. "League of Legends Origins" is available now on Netflix and many streaming video platforms.