It has become a pattern of Riot Games to spread its reach and touch as many game genres as possible. This wide breadth causes an easy comparison to be drawn to Disney, with Disney known to buy out their competitors. But as of now, Riot’s actions are fundamentally different from the titans of the film industry.
Riot has become infamous as esports thieves. Their primary title, League of Legends, started as a direct competitor of Valve’s Dota, mimicking its style closely but tweaking it to appeal to a wider player base. A similar strategy can be seen in Riot’s Teamfight Tactics taking inspiration from Dota’s Auto Chess. In 2020, their new game, VALORANT, has taken the community by storm, breaking several Twitch viewership records even before its official release. Like TFT and League, VALORANT is incredibly similar to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, while also taking some inspirations from Blizzard’s Overwatch.
Some in the community have expressed worries that Riot’s moves are choking out competitors in the industry, maybe leading to a monopoly. One example of this is regarding recent events in the Overwatch esports scene. Jay “Sinatraa” Won, the Overwatch League MVP, left the OWL to join Sentinel’s VALORANT team. Players in both Overwatch and CS:GO have been migrating over to VALORANT’s prospective league. These leaks are just symptoms of Riot’s ability to make viable competitors.
A monopoly only occurs when a company’s competitors have been eliminated or they are found working together to maintain parity in an oligopoly. Riot Game’s movements, while threatening, only prompt competitors to react. Valve has seemingly already done so with CS:GO, giving their game an uncharacteristic update. Blizzard, on the other hand, still needs to make the proper adaptations. Overwatch experiences pains due to weaknesses that would be exposed eventually. VALORANT just happens to be the game helping uncover Overwatch’s shortcomings.
Riot Games becoming Disney
As of now, Riot shows neither the capacity nor the precedent that they are enforcing a true monopoly. Games like Dota and CS:GO still exist, competing for their spots at the top of esports. For Riot to become the actual Disney of esports, massive buyouts would be necessary. Disney’s net worth is estimated to be about $140 billion. In their bid towards expanding their market share, Disney absorbed major studios like Lucasfilms, Pixar and Marvel. Sitting at an estimated net worth of $6 billion, Riot has much less spending power for competing developers.
The issues come from Riot’s parent company, Tencent. They hold a similar weight to Disney, wielding an estimated net worth of $135 billion. Tencent has 40 percent ownership of Epic Games, the developers of Fortnite, and 5 percent of Activision Blizzard. Tencent is well known for its wide investing strategy. If they were to focus their investment funds towards fully acquiring their biggest competitors, esports would be in a bind. Fortunately, their shares of the big players are still in the minority so companies like Valve can retain their independence.
Today, Riot Games’ actions are still beneficial for the esports community. Valve responds to VALORANT, finally improving CS:GO for better player experiences. Blizzard must also make significant amendments to Overwatch. The community should be wary moving forward, but as of now, top esports will improve from the impending competition. Esports news will be made as competitors grow.
Written by Devon Huge