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Why Freemium Feels So Damn Good in League of Legends
by Sheldon Laframboise on 08/06/13 12:39:00 am   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutraís community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.

 

LoL_banner

Why write this article?

Recently my co-workers convinced me to try League of Legends… I was pretty apprehensive at first but it didn’t take long before I was a level 23 summoner (still 7 levels to go), playing during lunches having my face (figuratively and literally) melted off and loving every moment of it.

I began to wonder how/why this game is so profitable but manages to offer so much content for free. This interest was fueled even more by my previous article where I discussed the systems design of the most popular and profitable mobile game currently on the planet – Candy Crush Saga. While Candy Crush focuses mostly on impulse buys and consumable items, League of Legends is a hardcore PC game with a similar but at the same time, very different strategy. I wanted to sample both ends of the spectrum to see what made these blockbuster titles tick.

So without further ado, let’s discuss why freemium feels so-damn-good in League of Legends.

The Game

About League of Legends

When you look at the the overall experience of League what you see is another shining example of a game design cohesively matched and working with its retention and monetization systems. At the same time, Riot has managed to take the conversion directly out of the game and place it separately into the in-game store. They typically do not rely on impulse purchases, but instead focus on player engagement, retention and build conversion through player attachment/emotion.

League of Legends is a competitive freemium title built with gameplay specifically in mind which has earned it the title of the most played game in the world.

Build Community: The Most Important Rule

The first thing you need to remember is that League of Legends is a competitive and community driven game. In a competitive game, free players need to be on the same balanced playing field as premium players. Creating too many (if any) pay-to-win scenarios drives off your free players and stifles the growth of your community. This reduces your monthly active users and drives down potential conversion.

The game is fair and balanced between freemium and premium players and its monetization strategy is really built with that in mind.

Random Fact: League of Legends is an eSport and has even been identified as such by the U.S. government. Professional players can now more easily immigrate to the United States when drafted by professional teams.

Let’s Talk More About Balance

Typically the game is a level playing field, with the exception of some champion balance issues the game itself offers very little to no “Pay to Win” scenarios. On top of this, it is important to note: Any impactful gameplay item, boost or champion can always be purchased using the free soft currency (Influence Points). Only timezone transfers, name changes or vanity items require real world money conversion.

By ensuring that anything that can affect gameplay is accessible to all players, Riot further ensures players are evenly matched together.

It’s a design formula that works; as of late 2012, League of Legends is the most played PC game in the world with an average of 12 million daily users and well over 32 million monthly active users.

Champions, Lots of Champions

League of Legends has a lot of playable champions, 114 and counting to be exact. Every playable character is unique, with different skills and play styles. If variety is the spice of life, then League is definitely full of life.

On top of being a systems driven game, champions are where League gets most of it’s metagame. There is an endless possibility of hero match-ups in casual and competitive play. Heroes are continually updated, tweaked and balanced to keep things interesting.

I hope you like champions – there are only a few to choose from…

Approachability

Character design can range from ultra cute to hyper sexualized to something from your deepest, darkest nightmares. Broad appeal is essential to increasing potential player base and retaining players. Typical character design leans more toward core/hardcore gamers but the variety does exist!

 

Cute and Cuddly – Hyper-Sexual – Born of Evil

Special Note: Teemo maybe cute, but he’s the spawn of Satan on the battlefield.

Every Champion has a Backstory

As I mentioned in my previous article, story is important regardless of how shallow or deep that story may be. Stories can help drive player engagement and will ground the player into the world.

Every single one of the 114 champions in League of Legends has a fleshed out back story tied to their character which is easily accessed via the champion overview. While this is a small touch of detail, it is certainly an important aspect to the overall experience. The story helps engage the player and build attachment to the champion. This emotional connection / attachment helps fuel conversion when the player wants a champion or has experienced a champion and then wants them later. The story makes the champ additionally memorable.

Core Conversion Systems

Currencies

League of Legends offers two currencies, both serving unique purposes while also working together in the game’s economy.

 Influence Points

Influence Points are soft currency gained from playing the game. Any player that competes in a match is awarded this currency regardless of victory or defeat. Winners are rewarded with slightly more points but it is important to note whether a player wins or loses, that both are rewarded for playing. By rewarding both players, Riot is ensuring that the sting of defeat is mostly left inside the arena. Frustration is diminished significantly and player retention is easier to maintain.

 Riot Points

Riot Points are League of Legends premium hard currency. This currency can only be obtained from converting real world money. This currency let’s the player buy most, (but not all) of the games features.

An Introduction to Spending

Upon hitting level 3, Riot grants 400 free RPs to the player to spend. 400 Riot Points doesn’t buy much but introduces the player to the dual currency system. This introduction also shows the player that it takes a lot less Riot Points to purchase than grindable Influence Points.

The free introduction is basically a value proposition to the player using a gift.

Premium Currency vs. Grind Currency

Converting money does have its advantage: Saving time. When a player converts their money to Riot Points they can instantly purchase any of the games champions, skins or consumable boosts. There is no need to grind the IP – as real world conversion instantly grants access to the main content of the game.

Converting real money also lets the player focus on spending their Influence points on stat boosts (known as runes). Runes can only be purchased using soft currency and as such, if the player can focus the majority of the free currency here, they can max their champion potency a little faster.

Summoner Whale Items

Skins: This in my champion, there are many like it, but this one is mine.

Every champion in the game has generally between 2 to 5 unique skins which will change the way the champion appears on the battlefield. Skins typically are amusing and often have pop culture references buried in them. Skins prices vary, with the odd feature skin popping up from time to time. Skins can only be purchased using premium currency.

Skins are purely a vanity item and offer no real impact to the gameplay. Purchasing a skin is a great example of League of Legends ability to monetize the player using emotion.


Video Game Sona (Left) & Pax Jax (Right)

Example: If you (the player) have a favourite champ, and have been playing it for a while, odds are you are somewhat emotionally invested into that champion. Buying a skin is a way to keep that champion fresh.

Additional Rune Pages

 

 This is an upgrade for the true League of Legends “whale” or pro player. League only lets a player have 2 rune pages on their profile. True min/maxers would want to have greater fidelity optimizing their champion build. With a huge variety of rune combinations available a player could maximize their stats depending on the competition. Building rune combinations takes time, so selecting a preset is much faster when joining a game.

Summoners can purchase additional rune pages for:

a) The IP cost of an expensive champion (6300)
or
b) For the small real world cost of 590 Riot points.
or
c) In bulk for a reduced cost of Riot Points

New Champions

League of Legends sees a new champ, designed with new skills and backstory released usually every 3-4 weeks. New champions come at an increased cost for the first week to further promote first day purchases from whale customers. After which the cost is reduced for everyone else.

On top of helping drive conversion, new playable characters also drive monthly retention. New content will always bring back customers who want to see what it is all about. Each new champ usually comes with new gameplay mechanics unique to the game.

Meet Lucian the newest, latest and greatest hero to be arriving to League of Legends soon.

Special Note: Sometimes, and this may or may not be on purpose, new champions will be more powerful than the existing characters. The new champ will usually be balanced some time after release.  More powerful, first day release champions can help drive conversion (pay to win) scenarios but need to be addressed quickly

Consumables

League, like most other freemium games contains consumable power-ups. These consumable items are used to help the player in their leveling and Influence point grind.

Boosts

Boosts essentially allow the player to buy time and avoid the grind. There are 3 types of boosts available for purchase.

 IP Boost

Gives the player a 200% influence point boost for every game played within the consumable duration time.

 IP Boost (Wins only)

Generates a 200% bonus to influence points earned per game won.

 XP Boost

Increase XP gained by 200% for a limited time, allowing the player to level up their summoner account more quickly. Leveling up faster allows the player to more quickly access ranked games at level 30. This consumable is no longer used once the player hits level 30.

Timezone Transfers

Moving, want to play with a friend on a different part of the world? You can buy this one time use item to switch your account timezone.

Rename: Got a bad rep, or just tired of your summoner name?

Rename your profile without having to create a new account for a small fee.

Weekly Sales

Every week certain champs and skins will appear for sale, usually for up to 50% off. This sale price only applies to the hard currency in the game. Sales exist to entice players who are difficult to convert and to further monetize players who spend often.

Sales encourage the player to save time and to spend money rather than grinding to the full Influence point value of a character. Sales promote basic impulse spending.

Value in Bulk: Bundles and Upselling

Bundles

Closer to a whale items, bundles allow players to buy multiple champions and skins at once for reduced cost. Bundles also switch from week to week and are easily seen on the top slider of the store page.

Riot Point Bulk

The more money you spend, the more points you get per dollar spent. The player gains value by spending more money.

Boosted Boosts

Even boosts have better efficiency and dollar value per tier.

Retention Systems

Daily IP Boost Retention

Every 24 hours a summoner is awarded an additional 150 IP for winning a match. While this value isn’t very big, it drives retention up and increases the daily active users in the game significantly. Larger retention means larger chance of receiving additional conversion on top of this, earning the reward may require extra player engagement since they must win in order to receive it.

The player may have to play extra rounds in game to receive the bonus. More time in game, means more chances for possible monetary conversion.

Weekly Champion Cycle

So you don’t have a lot of playable characters and you recently played against a champion you really want to try? He/she/it is just too expensive to buy and you don’t want to waste your hard earned points of something you might not like?

Lucky for you Riot Games offers a weekly champion cycle. Each week Riot cycles a new selection of 10 champions to try. This gives the player a small sample of new champions to play around with.

This weekly champion cycle accomplishes 3 core freemium needs:

Retention: Gives the player a reason to return every week/day to try a new champion.
Engagement: Lets the player enjoy a champ they may have otherwise not played.
Conversion: Once the week cycle runs out, the player may not want to grind the Influence Points over the next week, and may just want to access that champ immediately so they may convert real work currency

Player Progression

On top of all the content, start to “finish” League is full of player progression. From leveling up to unlocking content or collecting champions; players always have something to strive for. General progression is easier to list in bullet point form and goes something like this:

  1. Play your first matches against the computer
  2. Level up enough to play online
  3. Keep leveling up to unlock new gameplay types
  4. Purchase your first champion
  5. Keep playing and leveling up
  6. Unlock more champions
  7. Hit level 20 to unlock the top rune tiers
  8. Get all your runes
  9. Hit level 30 to compete in ranked games
  10. Keep unlocking champions
  11. Increase your ranked status
  12. And so on, endlessly….

Community Integration

Simply put, If you have friends that play, odds are you will play. Being that league is a community driven eSport, Riot has integrated social features to easily get friends together and take it out on each other in the battle field. Easily being able to see friends online, spectate their games and contact them is fundamental to maximizing player engagement and to help retain players through social means.

What I would add/change:

After some discussions with people about my previous article, I had some ask me what I would do differently, so at the risk of putting myself out there, here are a couple of things I would love to see added to the League monetization model.

Build Your Own Bundle (Monetization)

I would design a system that would allow a player to bundle together any champion in the game. The more heroes bundled, the cheaper they all become (within a cap of say 30%). This would allow players who aren’t quite willing to wait for a sale, commit to purchasing multiple heroes at once based on what they deem to be valuable to them. Values of the heroes in the bundle would be scaled accordingly to their cost so not to risk abuse of the system.

Create A Bundle would accomplish:

  1. Greater immediate conversion on those midground players waiting for that “right bundle”
  2. Offer another conversion alternative to the player

By making the cost reduction cap at 30%, traditional 50% off sales would still retain their value and encourage impulse spending. Bundling your own selection would also curb the issues of current sales where the player may already own champions in that bundle (making it less valuable).

Wishlists

I don’t monetize easily – I wish League offered the ability to create wishlists similar to Amazon or Steam. If a champion I want goes on sale, I am notified. Knowing it is on sale, and being reminded would help drive my potential for lower end base conversion.

Summary

This concludes my critical lens of the League of Legends freemium design. While I find the system rewarding, fair and balanced, I’m curious to hear if you agree! If you like the article, feel free to read some of my other work, visit my site and even follow me on twitter!

Thanks for the read!

Twitter: @Slafram
LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/in/sheldonlaframboise
Site: gamesinc.ca


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Comments


Will Buck
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Nice article! Building a bundle and wishlists would indeed be excellent additions :)

Benjamin Sipe
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Wish list is a great idea, but I would bet money that the "build your own bundle" would impact revenue negatively. Some might think the opposite "well I'm only buying what I want" but I guarantee there's a reason why they're bundling those particular items together.

Kirk Black
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Great article. IMO, League of Legends represents the monetization mindset by which all games should strive: focus on building a community and giving them an awesome game they love to play. Once you have that, you won't need to artificially engage in cash-grab features like paying to cross a river or not being able to play after 5 lives/exhausting your stamina unless you pay up.

Players will spend money in games they love and that are deserving of their time and attention.

Damion Schubert
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Agreed. The number one way to monetize your game is to build something that players can fall in love with.

Ardney Carter
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"So you donít have a lot of playable characters and you recently played against a champion you really want to try? He/she/it is just too expensive to buy and you donít want to waste your hard earned points of something you might not like?'

This is actually the worst part of their model, IMO. Heroes are the core content of your game and arbitrarily gating off a vast majority of them leaves a bad taste for me personally. Compare that approach to something like Heroes of Newerth where all the characters are available for everyone from the start and I know which one I'd pick every time. Given that their userbase is so much larger you wouldn't think it'd be a problem for them to get by exclusively on vanity items and account level modifications like HoN does.

Still, the core of the model works well and if more devs try to follow a path like theirs rather than many of the others we've seen in the F2P space of late then so much the better.

Kevin Bender
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This is a contention for a lot of people used to having access to all the heroes. Think of it another way. If you have all the champions at day 1, where is the progression? Alot of the times I hop on to play in order to earn IP to get those champions... If i had access to all of them at the start, i don't know, but i don't think there would be as much incentive to continue playing the game. For me, i like the aspect of trying out free champions, and figuring out which ones are worth spending my hard earned IP on.

In my opinion the worst offender is the rune pages. It is an IP sink to build miniscule stat increases that are barely noticeable ingame but in order to feel competitive they are a must. Getting a new champion is fun... increasing your attack damage by 0.1% is not

Ardney Carter
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If we were talking about a different type of game I might agree with you RE: progression but the depth of the game itself is plenty of reason to come back. 'One more match' syndrome is what keeps me coming back to HoN.

The amount of different strategies available on even a single character in these types of games is insane and when we look at the fact that both HoN and LoL have rosters of 100+ characters I have a genuinely hard time believing people who enjoy the core experience will get bored with it quickly or burnout in large numbers.

It does bring up an interesting point though RE: progression. Does a game of this type need progression independent of that which occurs inside a single match? I'd argue that it does not. I've never cared for LoL's summoner system either as the idea of a clean slate and mechanically level playing field at the start of each match feels 'right' to me. That said, that's a bit outside the scope of the article and it isn't my intention to derail the thread ^^

I can certainly see where you're coming from as far as progression being a hook because hey, who doesn't like to 'level-up'? That said I still can't agree that the game would suffer substantially from letting everyone use the whole roster from the start as it still has the Summoner thing to fall back on for progression. But hey, LoL is huge compared to HoN so what do I know? :)

Cordero W
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Ardney Carter: "But hey, LoL is huge compared to HoN so what do I know? :) "
You know common sense as a player, and that's a good thing. It means you feel like something is lacking, and I feel the same way about it. And it's the fact that I don't have the whole game available to me. LoL is an essentially a PvP arena. All PvP competitive games require all players to have access to everything from the get go to put everyone on a starting field. In Quake or Unreal tournament, the only thing that matters is your skill. In Halo, it's the same thing. In Call of Duty, you can customize what you start with, but everyone has everything gameplay wise and it always comes down to skill in the end.

This critical fair-game element is what keeps LoL from being taken past the casual level of fun. And that's why I cannot agree with their intentions of leaving all heroes something you have to pay to achieve, whether through money or time grinding it out.

Kevin Bender
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"keeps Lol from being taken past the casual level of fun" The article states it's an officially recognized sport by the government... I'd say that's a lot more then casual.

Riot sponsors 2 leagues (Europe and America) filled with 8 teams and pays each player full salaries. Its one of the most popular e-sports in the world (probably the most popular but i don't feel like looking up the actual numbers)

Samuel Green
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Popularity doesn't mean it's a quality eSport. Riot spent a LOT of money (and from what I hear, use a lot of dirty tactics) in order to establish LoL as an eSport.

Cristofer Wolz-Romberger
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I'm mixed on progression. On one hand, there's the limitation of playing my lvl 30 account with (same side or against) a friend's underleveled account, since it leads to disappointing matchups most of the time. However, I know friends that specifically enjoy creating new accounts to see how well they can do without those boosts provided by summoner level.


Also, I would argue that this progression actually supports the monetization of LoL. Since you can only have as many rune (IP costs) as you do levels, and the more advanced runes cost more (third-tier runes, available at level 20, cost about 13x as much as the first-tier runes, available from level 1; with second-tier runes at about 5x first-tier runes); creating this slower power curve means that players (almost) always have enough IP to full up all their rune slots.


It's worth noting here that many people I know wish leveling out of game happened faster, but I think that the balance between money (IP) and EXP; something critical in every RPG, since you want equipment to matter, but not so that it overshadows the characters; is about right.


On a side note, I tend to think HoN is a superior game from a technical standpoint, but that LoL has intentionally sacrificed any edge it had there to ensure a better community: I don't play HoN because I don't want to be raged at every game, seeing people raging in LoL is a rarity.

Scott Lavigne
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@Kevin

If you're new to the genre, then it will be hundreds of games before you feel like you have any remotely decent grasp on the game. 300 games in, you still probably won't know the kits of all of the heroes. You also might know vaguely what all the items do and what stats they give, but probably can't give numbers on them. Even a couple of hundred games after that, you probably don't know about some of the weirder interactions of mechanics, and even for the heroes you're most intimately familiar with (which can't be many), there will still be plenty of room to improve if only because you have room to grow as a player in general.

I've been playing DotA/HoN/League/DotA 2 for about 4 years, and I've pretty much completely dropped League from the list because it's by far the least inspired in gameplay terms and also because the amount of time you have to put into the game to have all of the heroes is pretty silly if you ever sit down and do the math. Once you get past the low level of play that 90% of players reside at, missing heroes from the hero pool can matter quite a bit, and regardless of game sense, you have to put in x amount of time to be as competitive as you'd like to be. I'd encourage you to look at how much IP you earn in a week and see how long it would take you to buy all of the heroes with IP alone, factoring in how often new heroes release.

Eric Mickols
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I would agree on the wishlists wholeheartedly. They recently introduced champion/skin gifting, so i would not be surprised if this was not far behind.

On the topic of "Build your own Bundle" I would like to relate it to their champion rotation. Riot has previously stated that their champion rotation is not random, and not evenly distributed. They hand-pick their rotation for the week based upon a few things.
-They like a mix of easy and difficult champions, for the mix of player skill levels
-They put in a new champion, 2 weeks after its release
-They have "crowd Favorite" champs that get included a lot
-When they feel a champion is underplayed, they include it to boost play
-When a skin for a champion is featured, they ar emore likely to include it free, to boost conversion
-They make sure that free champions are still viable with the current champion balance.

They have been much less forthcoming about their strategies in choosing champ/skin bundles, or champ/skin sales. I assume it is a very similar selection process, though. By premaking the bundle, they fuel sales of champions that are less popular, dont match the "current meta", and ones which they may have future skin releases planned for. When that skin comes out, suddenly everyone who bought the bundle is a potential skin buyer.

Cordero W
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I will say this once and I will say it again: LoL's free to play model is outdated compared to that of valve's model. Back in the day, their f2p model was essential for their starting company. But now that they have finally gained profit and a company standing, I feel like Riot should now upgrade their model to true f2p. This means letting players have all champs, runes, and masteries from the get go. And in exchange, make cosmetics their primary revenue. It has already been proven that Riot's cosmetics have huge profits, so it only makes sense for them to just give us the entire game and leave non game altering mechanics like this to something to pay for. This is mainly because you hit a competitive wall which is only eclipsed by spending over $3K to essentially purchase everything that isn't a skin. The "you can get all the gameplay elements in the game" is overshadowed by the fact that the grinding for it all is atrocious. For instance, I've been playing for over three years and I still have not purchased every champion or rune, the two key things you need to have all the tools necessary to play this game at your best.

I enjoyed Riot's game, but I've reached that point that most people reach after they realize that they essentially are just climbing an everlasting mountain that they cannot reach without throwing huge sums of money at Riot to make that climb faster.

Kevin Baker
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I don't think you need every champion in order to play at your best. You need maybe two or three of each of major types of chapmion, so maybe fifteen or so. In fact, since each champion requires a somewhat different skillset, I'd say trying to learn every champion is probably going to hurt you, unless you have truly massive amounts of time to spend on the game.


Another relevant factor in the LoL economy not mentioned is that the grindable currency isn't grindable in the MMO sense of the word "grind" (ie, is gotten by playing aspects of the game that are less engaging than the core content); you earn it naturally while playing the game.

Samuel Green
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Well said. I was going to do my stock "LoL ISN'T without pay-to-win" rant, because it bugs me how much praise Riot gets for their system from a gamer's point of view and not just a business point of view. Their system does have pay-to-win elements, and not just because they released overpowered champions every months (used to be 2 weeks). These elements adversely effect the game design, through the need for cookie cutter Heroes and skills that are indistinguishable from each other.

This quote pretty much covers the point...

"By ensuring that anything that can affect gameplay is accessible to all players, Riot further ensures players are evenly matched together."

What is accessible? Does spending 2 weeks to farm one champion really make earning all 100+ champions as accessible as a guy who is paying for them? Same with runes and the purchase of IP boosts and Rune Pages.

If LoL was completely not pay-to-win, Riot wouldn't need a separate system for their pro games. Oh look... I've gone into my rant again. I feel pretty strongly about this, I suppose!

Kevin Bender
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Having all the champions does not give you a significant advantage... In fact almost everyone will tell you, if you want to gain elo (individual player rating), you stick to one champion and master it... Also champion price != champion power. AT ALL. Arguably the most powerful champion in the game right now (and it is arguably) is master YI... someone you could buy (with in-game currency) after playing 3 games

Freek Hoekstra
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I will say it seems that newly released champions seem to be stronger,
atleast for a while, this may have a few reasons.

1 Riot wants people to want these characters and preferably buy them
2 if a character is played a lot,(because it is "OP" Riot gets lots of stats.
3 if a character is slightly overpowered, they can see how he/she gets abused and nerf the character in such a way that does not neuter him but only takes off the edge cases, which are sometimes hard to identify.

(lowering damage is rarely the solution, it often comes down to other stats which are harder to predict to result in a fun, strong feeling, but not overpowered champion.

Great article Truly enjoyed it!

Samuel Green
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Having all the champions with 7 full rune pages is a significant advantage over someone who has to spend 2 weeks to get each full price champion and has no runes to show for it. In the end, in a competitive situation where two players are of 100% equal skill... the guy who paid for IP boosts and all the champions will win more on average than the non-spender across a statistically significant sample of games.

Riot has tempered the game design so this isn't as much of an obvious problem as could be expected (Dota's game design could never support such a system) but there are still instances that get through the cracks*

I haven't played League properly since they started changing the jungle, but back then you COULDN'T jungle with certain Champions unless you had full rune pages... and certain junglers were required to counter other junglers (i was a big jungling fan). So if you didn't have, let's say, a Trundle or Shaco (good invaders at the time I played), then you couldn't counter a Warwick very easily. This is just one TINY example of the problem of champion and rune purchasing. I'm sure there are many more.

Now, I have to admit... when I played LoL from scratch on my first account back in the launch year, I didn't feel this issue. Everyone was around the same level as me in regards to Champions owned. But if I play NOW, starting a fresh account here in China... I have to play for around 2 weeks to be able to unlock ONE 6300IP champion. If I want to jungle, I need to buy the champion and all the runes. Half the time I'm matched with people that have access to Flash (the best summoner spell) while I'm still too low level to use it... and therefore I automatically lose mid lane purely because they can escape a gank attempt every 3 minutes when I can't.

This is a problem for me, when evaluating how 'awesome' the LoL business model is and how it doesn't pervade a player's experience. As I said before, the Pro players have every champion unlocked, all rune pages, all masteries and all runes... this would not be necessary if the business model did not have an impact on the gameplay.

Dota 2 uses the same client. Nothing in Dota 2 touches the gameplay. That is a F2P business model that I can get behind as a gamer... and apparently Valve makes a LOT of money out of it, so business backs it up too.



*And does a great business model really compromise solid gameplay?

Tyler Martin
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"Having all the champions does not give you a significant advantage... In fact almost everyone will tell you, if you want to gain elo (individual player rating), you stick to one champion and master it"

The problem with LoL though, isn't that having all of the champions confers a significant advantage to a player without practice, nor that practice with a single champion isn't the best way to improve. The issue is that this is a game that is trying to sell itself as a serious competitive experience but most players are completely locked out of the full metagame unless they either grind incessantly or pay absurd amounts of money.

If there is another champion that would better suit their play style than one they have available, well, good luck finding it because it's going to be a slow process to get and try all of the ones that appeal to you. Locking champions behind a barrier built on an artificial and false sense of progression would be the equivalent of a Street Fighter game starting you off with, maybe Ryu, Zangief and Cammy and making you buy or grind for the rest.

Maybe a player is interested in taking up a serious competitive game and spending the time to learn it, but doesn't really care for their play styles and would prefer M. Bison. Too bad for them and for the Capcom though, because they just lost their business.

Freek Hoekstra
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to introduce people to other chamions people might like, LoL has free champion rotation, which imho is stroke of genius, it allows people to try a champion fall in love with it (or hate it) and decide whether they want to buy that specific champion, from either Ip or RP (money)

to be honest if you really want to get good and competitive in the game, you need to play 4+ hours a day every day anyways... and in that way you'll gather all the relevant champions/runes in a matter of months, way before you are even close to being a pro player. and when you have you'll continue to store more IP and buy the new champions as they cme out and sometimes buy another champion for fun.

Sheldon Laframboise
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There's some good points here. The Pokemon style "Gotta catch'em all" is a huge player progression driver. Giving the player something to always strive for brings them back and gives the player a meta game.

On top of this, some good counter arguments are made regarding my bundle suggestion. Riot's huge success is based on their ability to take their KPIs and use the information for their sales and bundled offers. Given they can have over 3 million users online playing together concurrently, I would say their monetization model is not suffering the woes of being outdated quite yet.

Nooh Ha
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Hmm, interesting article but as others have pointed out, a key driver of revenue is the regular beat of new champion releases which any serious LOL player knows are pretty much always OP and exploitable for gameplay advantage. Its subtle and unstated and the OP champions always get nerfed eventuially but it is viewed by my long-term LOL buddies as pay-to-win - and that is where the bulk of their money goes as a result.

Ian Welsh
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I think I don't like you now. I've been avoiding LoL like the plague, mostly because of what I hear about the community (ie. the abuse in chat), but I'm thinking I need to play it now. I can already see a couple things that apply even to what I'm doing in a very different type of game.

Sheldon Laframboise
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@David Paris - Those are were some great insights, thanks for contributing. :)

@Ian Welsh - Haha. I can appreciate that. The League Community is really hit or miss that's for sure. I'm told that it gets infinitely better once you start playing more ranked games.

Steven Christian
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Personally, I enjoy something more if I've worked to unlock it, rather than if I've just got it upfront for free with a bunch of other similar stuff..

Josh Jones
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A note on Tryndamere and hypersexualized:
While it is nice to think it is fair- unfortunately I learned just yesterday that for some this is not the case. Check out the following comic to see what I mean:
http://24.media.tumblr.com/fbc01a1bcfafe2fe64328f6171d67b97/tumbl
r_mrbpgs5eAA1qzo8iho2_r1_500.png

Sheldon Laframboise
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Sure, from my perspective Tryndamere is what I would consider a hypersexual male champion to be. It's all kind of subjective (not exactly my male power fantasy). A good example of a hypersexualized male from the female perspective may be closer to Jayce.

http://images1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20120703044126/leagueoflege
nds/images/thumb/8/89/Jayce_OriginalSkin.jpg/1000px-Jayce_Origina
lSkin.jpg


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