Dipping LoL playerbase, Tencent's focus on battle royale and mobile cause tensions with Riot Games

Dipping LoL playerbase, Tencent's focus on battle royale and mobile cause tensions with Riot Games

It sounds like the last few years have been somewhat rocky for Riot Games and Tencent.

That's according to a report from The Information, which saw the firm chat to over 40 people, that claims Tencent is more interested in mobile games and battle royale than the MOBA genre at the moment.

Since Tencent bought Riot back in 2011, The League of Legends playerbase has dipped. The Chinese giant reportedly asked Riot to turn its PC MOBA into a mobile title; something the LoL firm resisted.

This mobile MOBA went on to be Honor of Kings - Arena of Valor in the West - with Riot employees shocked at just how similar it looked to League of Legends during early stages. The art style was changed, but the game went on to be a huge success both in Tencent's native China and North America.

Tencent is reportedly now more interested in the burgeoning battle royale genre, holding stakes in both Fortnite and Unreal Engine 4 maker Epic Games and Playerunknown's Battlegrounds firms Bluehole and PUBG Corp. As well as the massive success of both of these games, Tencent's new focus is also in part due to the aforementioned drop in League of Legends' playerbase.

CEO Nicolo Laurent has downplayed this dip, but chat from inside Riot paints a less impressive picture. In March 2018, staff were informed that the firm could hit a deficit if League of Legends' current trajectory continues. This might be why the company's founders are currently working on a new project.

"League numbers are down from their peak, but it's still one of the most-played games in the world and we're very happy with the numbers, and we think some of the new content we're putting out soon can only help with player numbers," Riot said in a statement to Dot Esports.

"Basically, League is doing incredibly well by any measure except its own very high watermark.

"The relationship with Tencent is the best it's ever been. We talked to Rioters about it a fair amount back in February and while the Arena of Valor situation wasn't great, we worked through it and leadership's take that it made the partnership stronger. We're working together toward an exciting future, both for League and our upcoming games (yes 's')."

Riot recently came under fire over reports of a sexist working culture, something the firm has responded to saying it'll try harder

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.