Yesterday’s 10th anniversary League of Legends celebration stream was a momentous affair with Riot Games pilling on the announcements and setting out a road map for the future that suggests it is on the warpath to not only expand beyond its massively successful flagship MOBA, but also dethrone Blizzard. The time couldn’t have come any better as Blizzard flails to curb the aftermath of last week’s Blitzchung ban controversy.
Nestled among the bevy of announcements were no less than six new titles in varying states of development.
Among them is a new mobile/console version of Riot Games’ flagship MOBA rebranded as League of Legends Wild Rift, a League-inspired collectible card game called Legends of Runeterra, fresh details about Riot’s long-rumored League-themed fighting game dubbed Project L, a tactical character-based multiplayer first-person shooter code named Project A, LoL Esports Manager, and a very brief look at what appears to be an MMO or a dungeon-crawler multiplayer title currently known as Project F.
At first glance, this deluge of new games is symptomatic of a desire to expand beyond the confines of its well-oiled and lucrative League of Legends comfort zone. The MOBA is among the most popular games on the planet and is by far the most popular eSports as exemplified by the 100 million fans tuning into last year’s League of Legends World Championships.
If we look at the announced titles a little closer, there’s an uncanny similarity to Blizzard’s existing roster. Legends of Runeterra joins Hearthstone in the free-to-play digital collectible card game genre. The short teasers for Project L bare a strong resemblance to Overwatch, albeit touted as a spiritual successor to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. We only saw a frustratingly short snippet of Project F, so defining a firm genre is presumptuous, but when allied to long-running murmurs of a League-styled MMO, our money is on this being a multiplayer affair.
Riot says Project F is;
a project that explores the possibilities of traversing the world of Runeterra with your friends.
Project F could turn out to be a co-op dungeon crawler or an MMO. Either way, Blizzard has two titles in Diablo and World of Warcraft that fit that description.
As for existing games, Blizzard had a shot at the MOBA genre with Heroes of the Storm. Unsurprisingly, Heroes of the Storm was unable to challenge the might of League of Legends and has weathered a steady decline since launch despite Blizzard’s best efforts.
If there was a need for further proof of Riot’s intentions, the League of Legends creator took a direct jab at Blizzard throwing in a ‘Turns out you guys do have phones’ during yesterday’s stream.
For the uninitiated, this is a direct reference to Blizzard’s disastrous Diablo Immortal announcement at BlizzCon 2018 culminating in lead designer Wyatt Cheng responding to the audible disappointment from the crowd present at the event with ‘Do you guys not have phones?’
Although Riot Games is unlikely to admit to it publicly, the company has its sights on a cross-genre empire to rival Blizzard’s.