Riot Games said today that it has logged some impressive numbers for online viewership of its Season 3 world championship for its League of Legends online game. The company said more than 32 million fans tuned in to the event, whose finale was held at a sold-out Staples Center, the same venue where the Los Angeles Lakers pro basketball team plays.
League of Legends is an extremely popular multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game where five players square off against five others. At its peak, the livestream broadcast of the event drew more than 8.5 million fans. A year ago, a total of 8.2 million fans watched, with a peak of 1.1 million watching at the same time. This year’s event took place in October.
Riot Games is about to kick off its 2014 season. But the company is holding a regional tournament first, the Battle of the Atlantic, which will feature some of the best professional European and North American LCS (League Championship Series) teams battling it out. The new season will have more top-tier LCS play and introduce the Challenge series, a venue for a new generation of League of Legends talent.
Next year’s world championship will be held in South Korea, which has become the mecca for professional gaming. The numbers above include the tally from multiple Internet broadcasts and TV stations in China, Korea, and other countries. Riot Games worked with an independent external agency to gather global viewership numbers.
League of Legends has become so popular that Riot Games has well over 800 employees, all working for a company with just one game. Riot, which is majority-owned by China’s Tencent, generates real money for the free-to-play game by selling virtual goods inside League of Legends. Players duel with each other in five-on-five multiplayer matches. And the game is so popular that it has become a huge e-sports community with tournaments that draw millions.
Rivals such as Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm and Valve’s Dota 2 are aiming to knock League of Legends out of the top spot in MOBA games. But League of Legends can still clearly support a big company. What is unusual about Riot’s owners is that they are sharing the wealth with their employees.