RIOT GAMES’ co-founder talks about its past, present, and ambitious future.
It doesn’t matter if you love or hate League of Legends, you should be paying attention to Riot Games. It’s hard not to, actually, when right now it’s taking over buildings in Paris, Singapore, and four other major cities, converting them into giant, interactive, promotional set-pieces—not to mention displaying a three-minute teaser on the facade of the world’s tallest tower in Dubai. Fortnite and Among Us now have League of Legends crossovers, and all of Riot’s games have just been hit with their own wave of big announcements, like Legends of Runterra’s new singleplayer roguelike deck builder mode. And at the center of this combo is Arcane, a gorgeous and epic new animated TV series set in the League of Legends world that premiered just days ago after the League World Finals. Riot knows how to make a scene.
The last two years have seen Riot evolve into something much more ambitious than just a game company: It’s becoming a media giant where music videos, animated TV series, and games all feedback into and draw from a universe of characters that one day might—it hopes—rival titans like Marvel and DC. Though League of Legends is at the heart of that universe, it isn’t just about teams of five squaring off in a map divided into three lanes anymore.
Over the following pages, we’re giving you a comprehensive look at Riot Games and the beast that it’s becoming, starting with this interview with co-founder Marc Merill about Riot’s past and future. There’s a lot happening over at Riot throughout November—more than we could cover in this story alone— but as Merrill tells me, it’s all in service of one goal, “To deliver these ‘oh my god’ moments for players.”
‘Oh my god’ moments are something that Riot has become increasingly good at over the years. From surprise music videos to lavish opening acts at the World Finals punctuated by giant CG dragons storming the stage, Riot has been routinely pushing boundaries. But much of what’s happening this November can be traced back to exactly two years ago, when Riot celebrated the ten-year anniversary of League of Legends with an avalanche of exciting announcements and big in-game events. Arcane, Legends of Runeterra, Valorant, LoL’s mobile version, an unnamed fighting game—all of these were revealed during the anniversary livestream, and in one fell swoop Riot became something new.
Despite being Riot’s co-founder alongside Brandon Beck, Merrill and Beck no longer handle the day-to-day operations. They’re focused on “offence”, big-picture ideas that shape the future of Riot. That’s why League’s tenth anniversary was so close to his heart. “It was an opportunity to showcase not only to the world but to Rioters [the nickname given to employees] what Riot’s all about—who we are,” Merrill tells me. “The ten-year anniversary gave us an opportunity to take players back on a journey of how the company has evolved.”
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