Back in 2009, when Disney bought Marvel for around $4 billion, eyebrows were raised as to whether the deal made sense. Sure, Iron Man (2008) had become an unlikely box-office smash, but there was no sense of the juggernaut that Marvel films would become. The Incredible Hulk, also released in 2008, was poorly received and struggled to make a profit on its huge budget. But, as we know over a decade later, Disney has made its money back several times over, with more profits guaranteed to come in as the Marvel Cinematic Universe expands.
What, then, does this have to do with League of Legends? Well, the game’s developer, Riot Games, has decided that it, too, would like to make a foray into developing a cinematic universe. The news is based on job advertising on Riot’s careers page, where it has posted jobs for Global Head of Live Action Film and Global Head of Live Action TV. So, it seems League of Legends is coming to the big screen, and the small screen too.
It’s no surprise that League of Legends is the first esports game to be considered big enough to have a cinematic universe. Since its release in October 2009, it has grown and sustained its popularity. CS:GO tournaments might have bigger prize money, but LoL tournaments tend to bring in far more viewers. For instance, the most watch LoL tournament in 2020 (the Worlds) had 3.8 million viewers compared to around one million for CS:GO’s most popular event, IEM Katowice 2020.
LoL has built an ecosystem of fandom
But going beyond the statistics of popularity, LoL also has carved out its position among fans in other areas. In a sense, it has created an ecosystem that goes beyond playing and watching the game. We know, for instance, that LoL is one of the most popular esports for betting. Firms like MansionBet will have created dedicated blog pages discussing, for example, LoL European Championship betting tips. Elsewhere, LoL has partnered with Marvel to create a comic and also explored music featuring LoL champions. A cartoon is also in the works.
The point is that, like Marvel, Riot has created an ecosystem that goes beyond one individual product. There is enough other media linked to LoL to create a level of fandom that would support interest in a cinematic universe. It’s quite an impressive feat to do so within 12 years, considering that the likes of Marvel, DC Comics and Star Wars built theirs up over several decades.
Details limited about Riot’s intentions
So, what do we know about Riot’s plans for LoL movies and television shows? The details are very scant, to be frank. But we know that Riot has plenty to work with on the vast world of Runeterra, and it has plenty of intriguing characters among the 150 or so Champions. Everyone has a favourite Champion, and they are constantly shifting in popularity. But that will give movie and television producers plenty to work with.
We might get some clues as to the style and tone of the LoLCU when the animated series – Arcane – arrives later this year. Arcane’s release had been originally planned for a release in 2020, but it has held back until some point in 2021. Arcane will feature the Champions Jinx and Vi and will be set in Piltover and Zaun. But, for the moment, speculation will ramp up as to what Riot’s plans are for the LoLCU. The only thing that is certain is that most fans will be ecstatic to learn of Riot’s grand vision for LoL on the big screen.
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