The other advantage Riot has is that it’s often just as guilty of the same supposed sins that have vilified Blizzard but rarely ever incriminated. While Blizzard is burning at the stake for protecting its business interests in China, Riot has been 100 percent owned by the largest Chinese tech corporation, Tencent, for years without sparking any kind of concerted outrage. In the immediate aftermath of Blizzard’s Hong Kong controversy, Riot also warned pro players not to mention politics—but that didn’t result in being called out on Twitter by US lawmakers.
It’s even funny to consider that, despite being a PC-only developer until now, half of the announcements Riot made last night were for mobile games and no one seemed to care. During the announcement of Teamfight Tactics’ mobile version, product manager Jessica Nam even quipped, “it turns out that you guys actually do have phones.” She mocked Blizzard for announcing a mobile game while announcing a mobile game .
Blizzard’s fans already feel misunderstood and disenfranchised, so when it protects its business in China or chases mobile gaming trends, it validates the feeling that something about Blizzard is changing—and not for the better.
But even in the aftermath of ugly controversies like reports of institutional sexism, it’s moments like Riot’s livestream that indicate Riot’s relationship with its players is still in good shape and that people are optimistic about the next ten years of League of Legends. Riot has found a way to make money in multiple markets and not make any particular one feel less important than the other (for now, at least). That’s a luxury that Blizzard just doesn’t have and, with people looking to protest Blizzcon next month, probably won’t have any time soon—if ever again.
Though it could be years before Riot’s Blizzard-killers are actually released—not to mention whether they’re even good—it’s clear that the fellow California-based studio is no longer content with quietly operating the world’s most popular game anymore. Riot feels like it’s evolving into something much bigger, and as Blizzard’s spot as PC gaming’s most-beloved developer begins to slip, I smell a usurper.