In the world of online gaming, League of Legends (LoL) has been one of the most popular Riot games for over a decade. The game—demanding strategy, planning and technique—has had a huge player base since its release. The captivating gameplay has had over 130 million monthly players that continued to grow as the game gained popularity. However, in recent years, the player base of this popular online game has been declining due to multiple factors.
The starting point for the decline in player base began in 2019, when in just a single month, LoL lost around 23 million players. In the oncoming months, the decline continued, and the player base dropped to 74 million. There was then a steady increase in the number of players once a new season was launched by riot games. The launch was a wonderful success, and the player base increased to 130 million.
Then, in 2023, the game lost around 3 million players again, leading to fluctuations in revenues. In this article, we will explore the different reasons for the shift in popularity.
Loss of Spark
Released in 2009, League of Legends was one of the first, original Multiplayer Online Battle Arena (MOBA) games. With its launch came the excitement and infatuation of players seeking to game in a new and interesting style. As the game grew in popularity, the fan base continued to skyrocket. But in recent years, there have been many new MOBA games, and as a result the initial excitement for LoL no longer remains strong.
Players now want to seek out something different, something new, and their interest in the classic game no longer remains as strong as it used to be.
Adapting To Change
For players who have been playing LoL since the beginning, there is a nostalgic connection formed with the game. They do not like the frequency of the new updates and modifications in the game since without consistent updates, the game becomes quite stale. As a result, the game is no longer appealing to them and they stop playing. On the other hand, new players tend to prefer a modernistic gaming approach, and if Riot does not add modifications and updates, the newer LoL fanbase will stop playing.
This dilemma of wanting change yet wanting familiarity is what causes a decline in either the newer player base, or the older one.
Player experience within the gaming community is one of the most crucial aspects in determining a game’s popularity. With positive interactions that evoke a sense of comradery between players, a game becomes more enjoyable.
Some players tend to keep only to themselves, making new accounts to learn new roles, avoid getting trolled, and to put down newer players. League of Legends is a game that involves cooperation, team skills and communication. Bullying, trolling, and a constant reinforcement of negativity and toxicity repel players that want to be a part of the LoL community.
LoL is an ever evolving game, with new updates constantly underway, and modifications and changes to enhance gaming experience. When players spend most of their time playing, they tend to get burnt out or exhausted. After intense matches, and long gaming sessions, they usually end up taking a break from gaming. Returning to a game after a break then causes players to lose interest due to the new updates.
Different strategies, dynamic gameplays, and new approaches would be difficult to grasp after a break. Rather than trying to understand the game better, adapt to the new style, develop better skills, and invest in the time to keep up with the game, players find it easier to just quit playing altogether.
The game gets boring
No matter how rapidly the game advances forward, there will always be a point when players no longer find an interest in it any more. One reason could be the fact that the gaming community is now saturated, and LoL is no longer the only interesting MOBA game out there. With changing trends and shifts in balances, people need something new to latch on to. Despite updates, new champions, item updates, and different mechanics, the game can not always remain exciting and fresh.
During COVID-19, almost the entire world was forced to stay inside during lockdown. As a result, people spent more time on their devices. Since LoL is an online game, it was the perfect way for people to spend their time in isolation. With social distancing in order and remote work measures, people would spend more time at home, leading to an increase in LoL gaming.
People would use gaming as a form of social interaction and entertainment to spend time with each other virtually and distract themselves from the worries of the world. However, with the world now back to normal, players have returned back to their work and daily lives. The hours players would spend interacting with one another while gaming now get spent on jobs, schools, universities, etc. This caused a drop in the LoL player base as people no longer felt the need to engage virtually over a mobile game.
As a person spends more time playing a game, they familiarize themselves with the game’s concepts, tactics and strategies. LoL has changed and evolved over the years since its release, and the game in 2009 is not the same as it is today. Not only has it evolved its gameplay system, there have been additions of new roles, champions, items, mechanics, and abilities. While the addition of these offers players a more fun experience, there is also a level of complexity now involved.
The number of changes and the difficult mechanics may prove to be difficult for new players, players coming from a break, or players who are not accustomed to the level of advancement. This may discourage them from wanting to continue to engage in the game, and leads to players often giving up.
There is no doubt that League of Legends has been and will continue to be one of the most popular MOBA games. Yet in recent years, there have been developments of new online games that have diversified the realm of multiplayer battle games. Games such as Battle Royale come with a newfound sense of excitement that draws players towards them. They create hype and demand attention that results in a surge of new players willing to try them out.
This leads to older games like LoL being left behind in the market of online games. Players no longer find the old classics exciting, and look towards the newer games in the gaming industry. These games tend to align with the latest trends, and stay up to date on what players look for in a game. These aspects attract players from other older games, and as a result, the fanbase and number of players drop.
If a new, more exciting game is released, some people will flock towards it, however those that prefer nostalgia and comfort over a new dynamic will stick to their older games. Yet despite this, the release of new games creates a hive mentality socially, and anyone who doesn’t dive into the mindset of the new social ideology is looked down upon. Games like VALORANT and Warlander may not live up to the level of League of Legends, however if a group of people shift to them, others will follow simply because they don’t want to be left behind. This pressure of wanting to fit in with the newever online gaming community is another reason why the LoL player base is slowly declining.
Fluctuations are normal
Just because a game’s popularity is decreasing in a certain time period, it does not mean the pattern of decline will continue forever. LoL saw a rise in player base, then a decline, then a rise and now a decline again. These fluctuations are simply due to factors such as game updates or seasonal patterns etc. Players may not have time to game during school days, which could lead to a decline in the player base.
However, during summer breaks the popularity and hype of the game returns as players now have more free time on their hands. Moreover, if there are new updates in a game, people may not want to continue to learn the skills needed to play, yet at the same time, many would take this as an opportunity to better their tactics and develop more strategies.
It is no secret that League of Legends was, is, and will continue to remain one of the most popular battle arena games in the world of online gaming. While the player base may decline due to the above mentioned factors, there is no doubt that the fan base continues to remain dedicated. Despite any fluctuations, there will always be millions of players determined to fight through the next battle.