Riot Games wants to take you to school. League of Legends school.
The developer has a program called uLoL (University League of Legends), which organizes events and tournaments for its popular multiplayer online battle arean (MOBA). League of Legends is a money-making machine. SuperData Research estimates that it pulled in more than $1.6 billion in revenue last year. At our GamesBeat 2016 conference today in Ranchos Palos Verde, California, Riot Games director of business development and publishing Sean Haran explained to Yahoo Esports’s Taylor Cocke why the uLoL program was important for the company and the game.
“Riot Games prides itself on being community focused,” Haran said. ULoL is designed for college players and communities. It started with college clubs asking Riot for help with making their tournaments more official and formal. This created the campus series, a tournament that’s run year-round. Haran compared it to the NCAA tournament, featuring a large bracket of teams that slowly comes down to two teams.
Haran noted that Riot thinks of League of Legends as a sport. So, if the top level esports players are in the major leagues, uLoL gives the scene a collegiate sports counterpart. Haran noted that with traditional college sports, it gives players a chance to form communities within their universities. It gives them a platform to express themselves.
Some of the clubs are huge. Haran said that the University of California at Irvine’s club has 2,000 members. Others have only about six members. Riot still works with all of the clubs, helping them organize events and tournaments.
Riot Games does not do a lot of traditional marketing with ads. Instead, programs like uLoL help to organically grow League of Legend’s reach and popularity.
Harand said that the average college player of League of Legends is a STEM major, has a full-time job, and carry a good GPA. They’re also active in their local community. “That’s the story that we’re trying to tell,” he said, noting that these are the students that can help make our country great.
ULoL has 300 clubs in North America, and it’s growing every day. According to Haran, it’s not about creating the most competitive esports league. It’s about maintaining authenticity and giving college kids a chance to express themselves and form communities.