Placing esports on the same tier as games and entertainment, Riot Games is redefining its business – Sports Business Journal

Placing esports on the same tier as games and entertainment, Riot Games is redefining its business – Sports Business Journal

John Needham, the newly named president of esports at Riot Games, emphasized that everything revolves around the creation of the video game. “None of those other experiences matter if the game isn’t really strong and doesn’t build community.”Clive Rose / Riot Games

When Riot Games launched Wild Rift, a mobile version of its popular League of Legends, the expectation from fans and analysts was that the company would play it slow with esports, letting the game gain an audience and slowly build out a global esports plan. As the game launched in October 2020, fans immediately saw Riot taking a much more active role in shaping Wild Rift’s global esports structure. According to John Needham, this shift in strategy began well before the game’s release.

 

“A year and a half ago Nicolo [Laurent, CEO of Riot Games] put a challenge to me and said ‘Listen, go with your team for the next few months and come back to me with a plan on how we can go big on esports,’” said Needham, who was promoted to Riot Games president of esports last week.

This new approach represents the evolution of how Riot has viewed the relationship between game development and esports. To that end, the company announced a significant restructuring, elevating esports to stand as its own division directly alongside entertainment and games.

“[The esports division] used to sit with what we call our publishing group, which is not just marketing, it’s a lot of things,” said Laurent.
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