Riot Games' relationship with parent company Tencent Holdings is reportedly on thin ice over declining profits and differences over mobile gaming.
According to a report published by news platform The Information, there are interviews with "more than 40 people close to Riot and Tencent," including current and former employees.
While the report mostly covers Tencent's full acquisition of Riot in 2011, it does provide details around Riot's dwindling playerbase and Tencent's interests in pursuing mobile gaming, which has supposedly been a source of stress for both companies.
The strained relationship seemed to come to a head after Tencent apparently approached Riot about turning League of Legends into a mobile game, to which they declined. Tencent responded by creating Wangzhe Rongyao, localized for the West as Honor of Kings (a mobile 5v5 MOBA) in 2015.
After early screenshots of Honor of Kings were discovered by Riot, employees were upset over the similarities the mobile game had with League. "They were blatantly ripping off our intellectual property," a former employee reported to The Information.
Riot had brought these concerns to Tencent, but Tencent instead changed the game enough to sell as a standalone product with no similarities to League and became the most popular smartphone game in China by the end of 2017.
The relationship grew even more strained after Tencent began focusing less on League (with its reportedly declining playerbase and profits) and more on its stake in Bluehole and Epic Games, which are riding the current wave of interest in battle royale games."
A spokesperson from Riot reached out to Dot Esports with an official statement regarding The Information's report, saying that "League numbers are down from their peak, but it's still one of the most-played games in the world and we're very happy with the numbers."
And as for the Honor of Kings and League debacle? It seems Riot is trying to put that to rest.
"The relationship with Tencent is the best it's ever been. We talked to Rioters about it a fair amount back in February and while the Arena of Valor situation wasn't great, we worked through it and leadership's take that it made the partnership stronger."