Esports game history: First years of League of Legends

League of Legends is one of the most popular video games today, and its esports tournaments are among the most watched ones. However, around twelve years ago, it was just a simple MOBA game with a bunch of players believing in it. What changed and how did LoL become the game we know and love today?

Starting its journey with only 40 champions, LoL now has more than 150, with most of the old ones getting reworks and all of them getting balances with regular patches every month. Even the familiar faces like Summoner’s Rift, the main map of the game, has gone through a lot of changes throughout the years.

The starting point of League of Legends

Inspired by DotA, League of Legends was developed by several developers, most of whom worked in the development of the former. From the day it was released, League of Legends went through overwhelming changes, by game features and esports. Going back to those first days, League was a different game.

The Summoner’s Rift looked like this those days:

via Riot Games

Today, we know Summoner’s Rift’s modern look, with it’s upgraded aspects and less “edgy” walls. There were always secondary modes, like ARAM which were introduced in 2012, after Riot decided to give the custom game ARAM players direct support through the game. While ARAM still lives, Dominion or the 3v3 game mode Twisted Treeline were terminated. See Summoner’s Rift’s modern look below:

Image courtesy of Riot Games

Looks much smoother, huh? Riot Games even introduced in-game advertisements during esports games, using the new Summoner’s Rift. In addition to the game’s map, from the start with 40 champions to the current point at 157 champions, as new champions were added, the old ones were reworked. Corporate needs you to find the differences between these two pictures:

Image courtesy of Riot Games

While the first champions were following similar recipes, today, Riot Games introduces new mechanics with each champion. Old Taric stunned people by putting their cursor on them and pressing E, while new one creates a beam in front of him and stuns after a while. Taliyah brought a long wall into the game, Akshan brought reviving champions and Zoe brought the sleep mechanic.

Of course, through the years, items also changed. However, that is a totally different story. There are more than a hundred items currently, and they have changed with every single patch. With old items mostly giving stats, new items try to introduce new mechanics as well, like Goredrinker, Prowler’s Claw, Galeforce or Crown of the Shattered Queen.

The changes were not always welcomed by the players, but today, I am sure that no one would want to play the old LoL more than a few games for nostalgia. As the game changed and evolved, Riot Games, and their look at esports and marketing changed also.

League of Legends esports

Starting the World Championship at a small venue at DreamHack Summer 2011, Riot Games showed they care about esports so early, but it was a humble approach. The prize pool was $100,000, the grand final was a best of three, and Fnatic became the first world champion of League of Legends.

Things changed and developed fast. The prize pool at Worlds became $2,000,000 with $1,000,000 going to the champions in 2012, the tournament was held in Los Angeles, California, with the grand final being hosted at Galen Center. At the time, Season 2 World Championship became the most watched esports tournament of all time.

Today, the last World Championship was held in Iceland, behind closed doors, unfortunately. However, the last Worlds which could introduce fans was held in Europe. Starting in LEC’s studio in Berlin, the group stage was held in Verti Music Hall in the city, the quarterfinals and semifinals was hosted in Madrid’s Palacio Vistalegre and the grand finals was at AccorHotels Arena in Paris. The total prize pool was $2,250,000, with the winner taking $834,375 of it. Also, the fans contributed to the prize pool additionally by buying Worlds-related things from the League’s market.

Riot Games’ attitude about the lore

League of Legends cared about having a lore for the game from the first day. However, it was not the lore we know today. Everything started with stories written for every single champion by Riot Games. League of Legends was a measure, which summoned the champions to ensure peace in Runeterra.

Today, Riot Games feeds the fans with different media to introduce the lore. From comic books to stories, and most recently, the Netflix series Arcane, Riot Games changed their standpoint to lore. They made it the biggest marketing point of League of Legends, and at some point, League of Legends and it’s esports became a marketing for Arcane, something that emerged from League itself. You can find how Arcane was teased during Worlds 2021 below:

With patches every month, it was impossible for League of Legends to be the same, if not a similar game to what it was twelve years ago. Although they got criticized for what they’re doing, Riot Games managed to change the game, modernize it and keep its player base through all these years, and it deserves recognition.

If you are also a League of Legends fan, whether you were watching it from the day it was released or started it yesterday, and you have a favourite team, watch their games and place your bets on Luckbox.