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Riot wants to turn LoL into Pokemon, and it’s bad news for players

Riot Games isn’t just trying to make League of Legends the biggest online multiplayer game anymore, it’s trying to make it into the next Pokemon. That may or may not be good news for established fans of the game.

Ask 100 different people what the first thing that comes to mind is when they think of Pokemon and you’re likely to get a number of different answers. For some, it would be a long-running series of video games. For others, it could be an app they play while waiting for the train, a trading card game, an anime, or any one of the many other things the company has created since 1996.

Pokemon is the world’s most successful cross-media IP and it has deep roots in video games, so it makes sense that Riot would want to take a page out of Pokemon’s playbook. But if the company succeeds, it could result in some big headaches for fans of League of Legends.

Darius in Project L

League of Legends benefitted from being Riot Games’ only project

A long-running joke among League of Legends fans is that its publisher shouldn’t be known as Riot Games, it should be known as “Riot Game.” While it was a joke, it was also true in a way that benefitted players.

When it came to shipping game updates, skins, and other content, the only entities Riot has had to worry about are its player base and esports scene. This has largely been of benefit to both sides, as fans get a definitive calendar for major updates while the esports scene gets gameplay stability that lets pro players perform at a high level.

Trouble can occur when more variables are added to the equation, with Pokemon being the biggest example of this. When a company has a lot of legs but can’t get all of them moving in perfect sync, it forces them to make some difficult choices.

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet troubles are a warning for League of Legends

Pokemon Scarlet and Violet launched with a host of technical and performance issues, with many wondering aloud why the game shipped in the state it did. The simple answer is that the rest of The Pokemon Company needed it to.

While Pokemon Scarlet and Violet surely would’ve benefitted from another six months of development time, this would have been a major setback for other arms of the company. The TCG needed a shakeup, the Pokemon Master Journeys anime was being sunsetted, toys would’ve been left in warehouses, content for Pokemon GO and Unite would’ve been slowed down, and so on.

League of Legends fans have already gotten a small taste of this. The Ruination and Sentinels of Light events in 2021 were meant to coincide with the launch of the Ruined King spin-off game. While Riot was able to give Ruined King extra time in development and shipped LoL updates at its own pace, that option may have been available because the company wasn’t deeply invested in Ruined King’s success. 

But Riot’s other projects are growing in size and scope. There’s another season LoL animated series Arcane in the works. The launch of the long-awaited Project L fighting game is looming. Fans can expect in-game events surrounding both of these. A time may come when Riot is forced to ship a Pokemon Scarlet and Violet of its own, and that will be a test for the League of Legends fan base.

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Written by Steven Rondina

Steven Rondina has been playing video games since he was a toddler and appreciates every genre out there. He has earned the platinum trophy in every Soulsborne game, is regularly Master Ball-ranked on the competitive Pokemon ladder, and has spent thousands of hours missing shots on Dust 2.

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