In Riot's Early Days, Testers Had To Be "Forced" To Play And They Had Two Months Of Cash Left

Jason Winter
By Jason Winter, News Editor October 28, 2019
Share:

Nobody wanted to play League of Legends while it was in development.

That's the word from early Riot Games employee (now Producer for Legends of Runeterra) Jeff Jew, who told the Washington Post that the game currently played by over 100 million people "really sucked for a long time" and that management "forced us to" play it. But a few months before launch -- Oct. 27, 2009, or 10 years ago yesterday -- something clicked and the various testers played not because they had to but because they wanted to, and a (league of) legend(s) was born.

The Post talked to several of the people instrumental in League's early days, including Riot Games co-founder Marc Merrill, going all the way back to his and Brandon Beck's recruiting of DOTA players, including Jew, at tournaments in 2006. The article covers all the gory details of League's development, from its start as a bare-bones office ("an old converted machine shop under an Interstate 405 overpass in Santa Monica") and game ("a flat plain dissecting a white screen with little skeletons running from one side to the other"), to its securing of capital in 2008, to the pressure of having to produce 40 champions at launch -- the game originally called for 20 but Merrill and Beck wanted double to help sell skins -- and up to its 2009 launch, in which it seemed like the game would be eclipsed by Heroes of Newerth.

That didn't happen, according to Jew, because of the difference in payment models, which was a significant barrier to players in Asia. "And all of those players flipped and they came to League of Legends because we were free to play still," he said. Even so, Merrill and Beck came close to converting their game to a pay-to-play model itself, thinking that they'd only have about 20,000 players and "doing all the math" to figure out how much they'd need to stay afloat as a free-to-play title. It came down to a couple of points, Merrill said, where the company had less than two months' worth of cash left to continue operating. "There are many, many stories about why the company should have failed," he said.

It didn't, of course, and here we are today, with Riot being a juggernaut in the game world that's finally, after 10 years, expanding into games and products beyond League of Legends. Still, one wonders what might have been, and if, in an alternate universe, we'd all be discussing the new Heroes of Newerth CCG coming out next year.

Share:
Got a news tip? Contact us directly here!

About the Author

Jason Winter
Jason Winter, News Editor
Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

Discussion (5)

Empatheia 1 year ago
Sounds like bullshit to me. I played in closed beta and I ate, slept and dreamt the game during that time and for years to come.

Jesus 1 year ago
Yeah, poor guys. I also hate when I go into work every morning and my boss "forces" me to do the work I was hired for.

View 1 reply
rickshaw 1 year ago
Its all about the fact they never gave up.
But in some cases you just have too!!
like STAR BLOODY CITIZEN!! Just give up already, YOU ALREADY LOST.

Nate 1 year ago
I quite dislike this trend of people going back to check on mistakes that companies made long ago just to try to throw some dirt at them. Who cares? They've made mistakes as a company every single company has made mistakes, along with every person.


You May Enjoy

eFootball Lets You Pre-purchase Packs With The Game's Most Popular Players

eFootball Lets You Pre-purchase Packs With The Game's Most Popular Players

$40 for a bundle of eight.

By Jason Winter - 1 week ago
Pokémon Unite Launches For Android And iOS Devices, Has Full Cross-play With Switch

Pokémon Unite Launches For Android And iOS Devices, Has Full Cross-play With Switch

Log in to mobile by Oct. 31 to receive Pikachu and a skin.

By Jason Winter - 2 days ago
Voice Actor Of Final Fantasy XIV’s Count Edmont De Fortemps, Stephen Critchlow, Passes Away

Voice Actor Of Final Fantasy XIV’s Count Edmont De Fortemps, Stephen Critchlow, Passes Away

The actor is also known for voicing characters in Big Finish productions such as Doctor Who.

By QuintLyn Bowers - 2 days ago
Star Trek Online Offers Players The Chance To Pick Up The Mirror Universe Gagarin Warship In Its Most Recent Event

Star Trek Online Offers Players The Chance To Pick Up The Mirror Universe Gagarin Warship In Its Most Recent Event

The Mirror Universe: Full of trouble...and cool ships.

By QuintLyn Bowers - 1 week ago
An Epic Victory: Judge Rules That App Store Must Allow Devs To Link Out To Alternate Payment Methods

An Epic Victory: Judge Rules That App Store Must Allow Devs To Link Out To Alternate Payment Methods

Injunction goes into effect in December.

By Jason Winter - 2 weeks ago
Scavengers New Season Introduces Game’s First Playable Character Since Launch

Scavengers New Season Introduces Game’s First Playable Character Since Launch

Explore the wasteland with Rin, a lady with a love for explode-y things.

By QuintLyn Bowers - 2 weeks ago
See More
Live Giveaways