Riot doesn’t know what League of Legends players actually want

League of Legends Season 13 has been awful from start to finish, as Riot keeps proving that it doesn’t know what LoL players actually want.

‘I love League of Legends’ – a phrase that, more often than not, I’m finding suffixed with a ‘but.’ Yes, there have been issues before (Sentinels of Light, I’m looking at you), but Season 13 is perhaps the worst chapter in League’s extensive history, fraught with bad balancing changes and a bizarre ramp-up in pricey microtransactions.

Right now, we’re sitting at a crossroads in League of Legends. The once game-changing MOBA has just… stagnated. I’ve asked myself why a dozen times over the past year, and I keep coming back to the same old thing: Riot just doesn’t know what League of Legends players actually want.

YouTube Thumbnail

Season 13, for me, has been one blunder after another. Take Soul Fighter, for example. Touted as this year’s big, snazzy new event, the internal fighting game didn’t pique my interest in the same way Spirit Blossom did all those years ago. The skins are pretty average (that Ultimate Samira skin is thoroughly average) and, all-in-all, I just wasn’t that impressed. While Arena is a fun game mode, in many ways it felt a bit half-baked (Riot itself admitted it was “rushed out”) and only feels complete in its new Winterblessed form.

Since Soul Fighter, events have just been the same old grind they’ve always been: buy an event pass, play games, and get the snazzy prestige skin. But even those have gotten progressively worse, with the Winterblessed event pass substituting some of the biggest rewards for banners that I, realistically, am never going to equip.

It’s a choice that left people divided, but the split was more 80/20 than 60/40. Yet Riot has defended itself and seems relatively resolute that the changes are, indeed, the right decision. Substituting a grab bag (which contains skins, the game’s most coveted rewards) for a banner is an out-of-touch decision  – people want to look cool in the game. Yeet one of the icons or emote rewards for a banner if people prefer them; that would be a much fairer trade.

To me, the Winterblessed issue is a sign that Riot has completely lost touch with the League’s player base and what it wants from the game – but it’s just one of only several incidents that have left me out in the bitter, bitter cold.

A pretty woman with short gray hair sits on an icy step leaning her head on her hand,. which rests on two mechanical legs with glowing purple thighs

Another one is good ol’ Dark Cosmic Erasure Jhin – yes, the $200 chroma. Riot argued that this was to service the rarity market, satiating players who want uber-rare cosmetics. That response rubbed me the wrong way, because I have to ask – is rarity only measured in money?

Take Black Alistair, for example. It’s a skin that you could only get if you bought the original League of Legends collector’s edition at launch. It’s just a recolor, but it’s become so rare because so few people have that original edition. The PAX skins (Twisted Fate, Jax, and Sivir) are another great example – you had to attend the various PAX events to get them. Their rarity isn’t measured in pure monetary value – it’s the opposite. These skins are so limited they’ve become expensive, not the other way around.

Clearly the $200 chroma system has worked. Riot released Breakout True Damage Ekko, after all. I’m not telling people how to spend their money – if you can afford it, go for it – but the core principle of ‘expensive equals rare’ feels at odds with League’s free-to-play nature, and indeed the game’s rarity systems (Prestige and Mythic skins). League is about the grind, not how big your wallet is.

A spectral figure stands tall in the middle of a galaxy with one arm outstretched and glowing red eyes

But, equally, skins are only a single part of League of Legends – a shiny extra that you don’t need. While, on the whole, the skin system has let me down this year (Redeemed Star Guardian Xayah and Rakan being prime among them), the thing that’s really ruined League for me is the balancing. Or lack thereof.

I’m a support main, but several of my favorite champions have suffered bizarre nerfs. Take Seraphine: while I agree she was a little overtuned, Riot’s decision to force her into the support role feels at odds with its attempts to drive champion flexibility. Confining her to a single role and orienting her to a shielder rather than a poker is baffling. Sure, she maybe needed some of that damage cut down, but now she’s sitting at the bottom of the LoL tier list. It’s the unfortunate fate of all enchanter supports – if you can’t play engage or tank, you’re in for a rough time.

It’s something that, for a while, had me off-role in the mid lane. I was sick and tired of seeing my main champions fluctuate so rapidly. Senna, Janna, Karma: it feels like Riot doesn’t know what it wants in the bot lane right now. You either stomp or get stomped – there’s no in-between.

A beautiful woman floating in the sea with long, peach hair that fades to purple raises a hand to look at a little fish wearing a frilled white and blue outfit

But it’s a similar story in top lane and, honestly, across the board. Back at MSI 2023, former League of Legends executive producer Jeremy ‘Brightmoon’ Lee told me the game state at the time was in “a bit of flux,” and several months on I still feel like we’re in a confused spot.

And this year’s new champions aren’t filling that void either. Briar and Hwei both released with absolutely abysmal win rates, while Naafiri and Milio lag at the bottom end of their respective tier lists. Something just isn’t working, and Riot’s changes feel like curses we didn’t ask for instead of accurate balancing.

YouTube Thumbnail

But all of this is very doom and gloom. League of Legends Season 14 looks like it’ll be the shakeup we’ve long needed. The Rift changes, monster changes, and itemization rework will, hopefully, come together to push the game in the right direction. Right now, to quote True Damage, we’re “stuck on rewind” – we need something new, just like what they’re doing with TFT Remix Rumble.

I have hope. I really do. In many ways, it feels like we’re entering a new era of League of Legends, and I’m excited to see where that takes us. After all, I love League of Legends – no ifs, no buts; just a silent prayer that Season 14 is everything LoL needs, and more.