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League of Legends

Riot president: "It's pretty frustrating when people try to position us as greedy"

Merrill, right, with friend and CEO Brandon Beck.

Somebody upset Riot Games president Marc Merrill yesterday. A Redditor accused his company of greed, and he wasn’t having any of it. For a number of reasons, which he outlined at length.

“No offense - but I completely disagree,” he wrote. “And yes, it pisses me off because I've spent the last eight years of my life building this company, game and team to deliver great value and to treat players well.

“Thanks for the additional reminder we need to do better at explaining who we are. But FUCK me if I don't allow a little emotion to slip in when the takeaway is so utterly wrong for who we are as a company.”

Merrill said that it was “pretty frustrating” to be accused of greed. He noted that many initially thought Riot were “doomed to fail” without a box price - and thinks of League of Legends as “pretty much” the first Western free-to-play game “core gamers actually really like”.

“We did this by building a really fun game, constantly investing over and over to grow and improve this game and by NOT selling power [and] being money hungry,” he said.

Merrill suggested that the rate of entertainment-per-hour for LoL was greater than for any of its competitors in cinema, literature, or games (“$60 for 10 hours, woo!”).

“Millions upon millions of our players spend zero dollars on league and enjoy it endlessly. We're COMPLETELY OK with this,” he wrote. “Greedy how? You do not have to spend money, it is completely opt-in.”

As for the players who do spend - they're not termed 'whales', as in the social games industry, as Riot “think it is demeaning to our players and rude”.

Next, Merrill highlighted Riot’s annual LoL Championship Series. The company spend “tens of millions” building their eSports scene, said the producer, and support their top players in making hundreds of thousands more. That's consistent with their words to our Rob last year on the LCS' profitability, or lack thereof.

Riot’s accompanying TV show, too, reportedly costs millions - and remains adless.

“We do all this because [CEO Brandon Beck] and I are gamers,” Merrill went on. “Always have been, always will be. We play the shit out of League of Legends. When servers go down, we flip out. When we don't deliver on something we promised, we flip out (Magma chamber where?) and change the world internally. 

“When we overreach on legal language with eSports contracts to prevent competitors from paying our pros to promote their games, we acknowledge the error and change it immediately.”

Fundamentally, said Merrill, Riot measure their success via player engagement rather than average revenue per user - a metric based on faith that “if people PLAY enough because they love what we do, then they will WANT to spend money”.

So why have players got the company so wrong? Merrill believes that Riot’s playerbase has increased so rapidly that their company message has been unavoidably diluted, despite their efforts to the contrary. Do you lot agree?

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For what it's worth I never thought of League as money grabbing when I played it. There are a hell of a lot worse out there, and even though I didn't play it for long I still unlocked a couple of characters by playing. Still, on the internet I expect there is always someone who will cast accusations regardless of how true it may or may not be.

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