With similar business plans and game feature innovation, Riot Games appears to be borrowing a lot of ideas from Valve. Sean Knight looks at the evidence
League of Legends has become one of the most popular games to play over the past couple of years. The game’s subscription numbers have surpassed those of World of Warcraft with 11 million monthly users; a feat no one would have predicted for a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game. Yet while LoL is undoubtedly king of the genre it appears that Riot Games has been mimicking a lot of Valve’s ideas from DOTA 2. Especially with the latest news about LoL expecting to have an AI-directed camera.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
On August 1, 2011 Valve announced that they would debut DOTA 2 in a competition called The International (broadcasted in English, Russian, German, and Chinese). In addition to that announcement was the news that they would be offering $1m to the winning team, which made it one of the biggest, if not the biggest purses, in e-sports to date. While the showing of DOTA 2 was big news, in and of itself, the amount of money at stake helped to really garner attention for Valve and its current title.
Two weeks later, Riot Games announced that the second season of their LoL competition would have a $5m-prize pool. This surpassed Valve’s prize by far although didn’t really steal Valve’s thunder. This was an huge leap from its Season 1 offering, which had a $100,000 prize pool.
October 2011 comes around and in an interview with GeekWire Valve co-founder Gabe Newell talked about Steam’s successful foray into the Russian market. In a discussion about how the developer approaches economics and piracy he said, “The easiest way to stop piracy is not by putting anti-piracy technology to work. It’s by giving those people a service that’s better than what they’re receiving from the pirates. For example, Russia. You say, oh, we’re going to enter Russia, people say, you’re doomed, they’ll pirate everything in Russia. Russia now outside of Germany is our largest continental European market.”
The Russian market, according to some statistics, has a 75 percent rate of software piracy. Such a high statistic is the reason why many developers and publishers do not focus on it or prioritize it when releasing games. However in January 2012, three months after Newell talked about Valve’s success in the Russian market, Riot Games announced its plans to bring the free-to-play title to Russia.
If these two instances are not enough then there is also the recent news that League of Legends would have an AI-controlled camera and and official release of a spectator mode. With a camera that will instantly locate and show spectators the areas with the most action Riot Games said that soon players would also be able to watch replays of games: two things that DOTA 2 has been providing since first shown to the gaming world during The International competition. Most important of these, though, is the AI-driven camera, which is the innovation of Valve.
When all is said and done, the fact remains that DOTA 2 is still in beta with no official release date from Valve. Yet LoL seems to be copying Valve’s moves ever since the private company showcased its title.
It would seem that having spent so much time at the top, Riot Games appears to be scrambling to stay with a competitor whose game is still in the beta phase. Could it be they are worried that DOTA 2 will be able to rival LoL in a way that would hurt their success?
If so it is certainly understandable considering that DOTA 2 is a direct sequel to the popular Warcraft III mod that created the MOBA genre in the first place. And while Valve is fighting Blizzard over the trademark it won’t matter whether or not the name is changed because the game is already a well-balanced title with an innovative spectator mode, AI-controlled camera, updated graphics, and an already well-established following.
But what do you think? Is League of Legends copying DOTA 2 or is it just mere coincidence at the timing of Riot Games’s announcements and events? Will Valve’s game pose a serious threat to LoL’s domination of the genre and did such a perceived threat spur the LoL developer into action?