Riot Games has just released some numbers about the active playerbase of League of Legends that are practically unbelievable. League of Legends now apparently boasts a trio of absolutely astonishing metrics. Riot reports that 27 million people play the game daily, while concurrent players peak at 7.5M. In total, 67 million players play the game every month.
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All of these are enormous jumps from the already huge numbers from over a year ago. Last we heard, the game had 12 million daily players with 5 million concurrent and 32 million monthly. These new stats represent enormous upswings in every category for what was already the most popular game in the world. For context, longtime king of the PC gaming world, World of Warcraft, peaked at 12 million monthly players in 2010 (though those were $15 monthly subscribers). Across all platforms, every Call of Duty game combined had 40 million monthly players in 2011. If you want to consider it a game, Candy Crush has 46 million monthly players, though by some questionable metrics, that number is 100 or 200 million plus.
For a game like League of Legends, 27M daily players with 67M monthly sounds almost too good to be true, but I’ve spoken with Riot PR who assured me these figures are accurate. Riot themselves should have a blog post out soon with additional context, I’m told.
League of Legends is a free-to-play title that pits teams of five against each other. Each player controls a character with special abilities, and must destroy towers, minions and other players in order to detonate the enemies “nexus” home base. The game has exploded in popularity the past few years, but now it seems to have reached a stratospheric level almost not thought possible for the game. In truth, I’d recently wondered if their numbers had dipped because it had been so long since we’d gotten any concrete figures from Riot.
What’s contributed to the massive increase? If we could say outright, we’d all be millionaire game designers, but there are clues. Over the past year, the popularity of League of Legend as a professional eSport has grown dramatically. Millions tuned in to watch the World Championship finals this year, and hundreds of thousands of players a day watch Twitch streams of their favorite players. Though Riot has regarded eSports as a loss leader, it’s served to drive international interest in the game to new heights, and the fact that it’s free means anyone can try it out and perhaps someday be a pro themselves (however unlikely that is).
League’s model also helps, to be sure. They’re one of the golden examples of free-to-play working as intended, as the items they sell for real world cash can either be unlocked fairly easily in-game, or they’re purely for cosmetic decoration. The game isn’t pay-to-win, and constantly seeks feedback from its players to ensure it’s working toward a state of balance. Riot is a generally beloved company, and rarely thought of as greedy, despite using a usually-derided microtransaction model to survive. Even though the game isn’t subscription-based, they’re still likely making a good deal of money from their players. Though that’s information they don’t release publicly, estimates have put Riot’s League revenues at $624M in 2013. Though I’m assuming those estimates were calculated before these new figures were released.
It’s interesting that League of Legends isn’t just popular, but this level of unheard of popular, as it’s not the easiest game to get into. There is a lot to learn when you’re starting out between dozens of items, over a hundred champions and an infinite amount of in-game strategies that are impossible to ever fully master. Furthermore, games are long, often 30-45 minutes, and the playerbase is notoriously hostile toward unseasoned, unskilled or just plain new players. In short, it can be a pretty tough game, even if it’s pitched as something of a casual title compared to its competition.
With that said, it’s incredibly fun once you get into it, and certainly addicting as seen by these impressive statistics. But still, even with the free-to-play model, the proper use of microtransactions, Riot’s community involvement and the game being pretty damn good, numbers this high are just out of this world. I’m waiting to hear what else Riot has to say about these figures, as it’s really hard to even wrap my head around them.