Legends of Runeterra just released their latest State of the Game video, accompanied by a pretty detailed FAQ. This comes in the wake of downsizing at Riot Games across the board, and, depending on the type of content you enjoy, it's both good news and bad news.
The good news is that they're focusing on PvE content, namely Path of Champions. This will come in the form of the Freljord region being added to the game, with plans of having all the regions there at some point, and the addition of Constellations, which will expand a champion's stars from 3 to 6, allowing you to personalize them even further. They'll also be adding more playable champions to the mode, with Lissandra serving as the main big bad for now. Some possible Arcane crossover was also teased.
The bad news is that PvP, mainly the competitive is being gutted. There's one more set coming soon, which will include a rotation according to Dave Guskin, but that will be the last for now. Which isn't to say no new cards will be added, but it'll likely be in a smaller capacity. While Casual, Eternal and vs AI will still function as usual, Gauntlets, Ranked Season rewards, Tournaments and E-Sports will go into indefinite hibernation, which also means there'll be no Worlds this year. If you're a content creator that runs community events, the LoR team will provide you some high-quality assets.
The reason for this change comes down to LoR being too generous. While there's plenty of avenues for revenue in the form of cosmetics, the card acquisition is extremely generous, so people are not spending money and the game is running at a loss. The devs mentioned that making getting cards stingier was considered, but they ultimately didn't want to break the original promise of a game that's easy to build your collection in. That said, it looks like the game will be monetized more in the revamped PvE.
You can find both the video and the FAQ below. The latter goes into some things we didn't cover here, like LoR now being part of League Studios, the state of a draft mode, why the game didn't launch in China, and more.
Q: Is LoR dying?
A: No, it’s not dying. We’re making some changes alongside the larger structural changes at Riot - the intent is to focus on a better path forward for the business, the core of which will be the Path of Champions moving forward, and keep this amazing game going with the smaller, more focused team while we do that.
Q: You shifted into PVE, Then refocused on PVP, now you’re shifting to PVE again? How did that happen?
A: All of the announcements were the honest truth at the time, but the reality is we were adjusting to the changing landscape of the gaming industry during each pivot. When we focused on PVE, our team was dead-set and ambitious that this mode could be the future. Shortly after we aligned on this vision, we had to be honest with ourselves about the monetary situation of LoR and rescoped the size of the team. At that time, we were very, very passionate that as a smaller team we could go all-out on PVP, which we tried to do by revamping our PVP systems with gauntlets and the World’s circuit. Throughout all of this, we continued development of Path of Champions on a very small scale. Through even that minimal support of Path of Champions we found the significant majority of LoR players were drawn to the mode.
Meanwhile, all of our bets and investments on PVP, unfortunately, did not increase engagement in the PVP modes the way we had hoped. We again want to call out what the competitive parts of the community have done for this game. It’s a tremendous achievement to have a game that has had multiple World Championships. There’s no doubt that the PVP community has a ton of passion and love for the game. However, we just can’t get PVP to a state that is realistically sustainable. We would need many, many multiples of revenue above what we’re making, which is simply unachievable.
We’re not the only card game to have made major changes to the business approach over the years, and we believe this latest change is one that puts us on the path to growth again.
Q: What is the last set coming out?
A: This upcoming set will be the last card set we release in the way players are familiar with. After this, the team’s going to take some time to figure out how things might look in the future and will keep you posted.
Q: What’s happening with Competitive? Will there be more tournaments?
A: For now, Competitive PvP will be put into hibernation. This includes:
- Gauntlets (including the Gauntlet Rewards track)
- Ranked Season rewards (Icons, Prismatics, etc)
- Tournaments such as the Runeterra Open system
- Worlds and E-sports holistically
However, we will keep Casual Standard, Eternal, and vs AI open indefinitely. Ranked Standard and Eternal will continue but in a different structure than today that we’ll be figuring out soon. With the sweeping changes to Riot and LoR, it will take us some time to figure out what we can do with those formats, and we’ll update you when we have more solid plans.
Q: Will we have a World Championship in 2024?
A: Unfortunately, no, our change in focus means that there will not be a World Championship in 2024. We are incredibly honored and proud to have made a game amazing enough to have supported having not just one, not two, but three World Champions, and the impact those tournaments, competitors, and the memories have had on us is immeasurable.
Q:I’m a creator/TO/Community member who runs community events. What happens to those events?
A: While we won’t be able to directly support a lot of these events moving forward, we are looking forward to supporting our broader community with self-run tournament kits (graphics package, best practices sheet, API instructions, etc) in the future.
We understand the impact the adjustment will have on many of our creators whose main content is PVP focused. You are an important part of our Community and we hope you join us on this Path of Champions and we’ll be able to work together.
Q: What about projects in the works like the Community Card Kitchen card and the World Championship prizing?
A: As promised, we’ll still be working with Talpinator and Chenia to each develop a card for the game. Their victories were a massive accomplishment, and we want to ensure we deliver their reward. For the Community Card Kitchen, that card is also on its way. We appreciate how many of you joined us in the process of designing.
Q: What’s happening with the LoR Invitational, the “Mystery Event”? Are you canceling it?
A: It’s still going to happen, and we’re making some adjustments with the recent events here at Riot in mind. Our community has always been one of the best parts of LoR, and the invitational is still a celebration of the community. We also look forward to speaking with the competitive players to see how we can best support them even with a focus on PVE.
Q: Why don’t you just sell things people want?
A: We put out a fairly wide range of content (boards, champ skins, guardians, emotes, card backs, prismatic card styles) because our core monetization thesis was to let people earn their card collection and pay for cosmetics. But sales for cosmetics have proven deeply inadequate, often costing us more to make than they earned for us. We know there are lots of things that players (and we) wanted - like animated cards and more impressive card borders - that we haven’t been able to introduce. But due to major technical limitations and the high costs it would take to make those cosmetics, based on our explorations and prototypes, we ultimately couldn’t make them happen. Lastly, even if we were able to find ways to comfortably produce these new cosmetics, the delta between what they’d be projected to make, and what would be needed to sustain PvP, is just too large to realistically expect from our players.
Q: Why don’t you pull back on the generosity, and make some money from cards?
A: There’s definitely been many conversations on how we could make this happen, but at the end of the day, there was no plausible approach we could take that would come close to matching the development costs it takes to produce the PvP sets we currently make, without essentially becoming a traditional CCG business model. Because we believe so strongly in the original promise we’ve made to players, we think that moving forward with the Path of Champions as our primary focus allows for a much more sustainable model to continue making Legends of Runeterra, while still staying true to our beliefs and values.
Q :Does this mean the game will be monetized more moving forward?
A: To be frank– Yes. Our team is very openly smaller now and we will have more packages and monetization options for Path of Champions on many different levels. We want the game to grow and to do even more cool things with Legends of Runeterra, but we will need to be self-sufficient to be able to responsibly pay for those cool things. While we’ll be listening intently to player feedback as these things go live, these new approaches will be designed to create sustainability for LoR in mind.
Q: Why don’t you release in China? LoR is the only Riot game not in China.
A: We’ve definitely talked about being in China, and it’s actually something we spent considerable effort on trying to make work after launch, but ultimately many circumstances have meant we couldn’t make it happen. It has since been an ever-present topic of discussion on LoR and at Riot. A major issue is that it’s not just a matter of taking our current version of the game and submitting it to Chinese agencies for approval of a gaming license - a substantial amount of work has to go into making changes, and we couldn’t afford to pause making the game for months to do so. Ultimately, because restarting the effort carried a significant degree of uncertainty, we chose to focus on opportunities that had more concrete impact to current players.
Q: Why don’t you release a draft mode?
A: As heard in the previous Dev Update, we’ve spent time working on a prototype of a draft mode, and found something that we think is fun to play and could be a good blend of satisfying to players and helpful to the business. Never say never, but it’s not something we can currently devote resources to. More testing is required, and it also takes significant time and effort to bring something from prototype to shippable, and we haven’t been able to do that alongside supporting card sets, other features, competitive, and the Path of Champions.
Q: Why hasn’t Riot Leadership helped LoR succeed?
A: Riot leadership has been involved in and very supportive of LoR all along, and are very proud of our critical acclaim and dedicated player community. Behind the scenes, they’ve been subsidizing LoR from other Riot games, in order to give us a long runway to try and find the right business model to become sustainable. They’ve also helped us manage multiple shifts in our focus - all of this prior to finally making the sensible call to better match the team’s size and investment level to the realistic business provided by our player base. Even now, they continue to support and champion LoR by committing to keeping the game going in a smarter, more sustainable way.
Q: Why is Riot investing in other unreleased games and not LoR?
A: There’s a bit of a double-edged sword here, being a live game - LoR has a dedicated player base that we know is passionate and engaged, but also LoR is not performing as a sustainable business. It’s right for Riot to keep other irons in the fire - unreleased games still in R&D have a bit more unknowns attached to them (we don’t know the audience appetite, and we don’t know the real world outcomes of their proposed businesses), so balancing investment across the portfolio, matching LoR’s investment to a realistic view of its potential business, is the reason.
Q: Why doesn’t Riot advertise LoR?
A: Our core focus has been on maintaining and retaining the amazing player community of LoR. To that end, the Marketing and Community teams partnered up and worked together to focus on our Spoiler Seasons, New Expansion Campaigns, Music releases, YouTube shorts as well as supporting social channels across a wide variety of regions on Facebook, Instagram, and X.
Let’s get granular: This is called “mid-funnel” marketing and tends to have a higher return on investment. Broader “top of funnel” or “awareness” marketing requires a great deal of investment to show a return inside of the game. High-end CG trailers with appropriate media boosting can run into the millions of dollars in costs even with strong audience targeting. We saw this lack of return time and time again over the course of LoR’s first year. Ensuring the community and lapsed LoR players felt supported and able to celebrate set launches via set content repeatedly provided a stronger return on our efforts and investments.
Going forward, be looking for LoR to take more advantage of the wider League ecosystem including such possibilities as client-placement in League as well as co-promotion across other Riot and League Studio channels.
Q: I heard LoR is joining League Studios. Why wasn’t it before and what does this mean?
A: Why wasn’t it before?
- League Studio is a fairly recent organizational change at Riot. It’s not intended to be a grouping of every game that uses (or will use) the Runeterra IP, but instead a way to help games with significant overlap work together better. For example, LoL and TFT share a client and codebase, with a lot of players spending some time in both games. LoL and WR don’t share code, but are very much the same overall core experience.
What does this mean?
- By having LoR join League Studios, the game will be much better integrated into the overall scope and plan of the League ecosystem, such as events, champion design insights, release cadences, and the like. There’s also some synergistic benefits between the games sharing resources and eliminating duplicative elements - we can have a single release manager for all the mobile titles, for example. This helps save LoR resources that can be used to make actual game stuff for players instead. When the games were in different parts of the organization, things could get bogged down for any number of unnecessary corporate reasons that this new structure should help reduce, resulting in richer and complementary game experiences for players. We have seen success with this in the past with instances like TFT and LoR sharing some of the same art to bring Remix Rumble to life, or T-Hex across games.
Q: Why isn’t LoR in the League client?
A: Good news, we’re targeting to start promoting Legends of Runeterra in the League client as early as sometime in February and periodically thereafter.
Q: You mentioned the roadmap, when can we see that?
A: To be frank, we’re ironing out exact timelines but we’ll be in the process together. What you see in the video makes up some of our immediate goals and upcoming releases from experiments run last year. As we release Constellations and Freljord, the results and player feedback to those systems will help us further galvanize our roadmap. However, as we lock things in, we’ll be sure to keep you in the know.
Q: What’s happening to patch notes, articles, and streams?
A: We’re still figuring that out, and we want to do that along with you. We’re taking this opportunity to look at all of the ways we communicate and engage and figure out where we can meet you all in the upcoming months. For example, while packed full of content, our live streams were focused around Live Balance, and our articles and streams that did focus on Path did not see high engagement numbers which is how we evaluate if a tactic is successful or not. These past few years we’ve shown up a lot on Reddit and Twitch which appears to be helpful but is not necessarily a scalable way to reach the broader LoR audience with meaningful, deep content. But, to assuage any fears, patch notes will still be around! We need to hone in on what’s the best way to get information to you all, and the cadence of our patches moving forward. We welcome your feedback on what you all think works best.
Q: Why don’t you just kill LoR?
A: We love LoR! We’ve taken a few big swings at plans to make the game more sustainable from a business perspective, by growing the playerbase, but that didn’t work and/or we found the work required was substantially beyond what the existing team could deliver. So now the plan is to match the team size and investment in sustainability more closely with the dedicated player base we’re so fortunate to have built over the past several years.