On November 3rd, 2018, four artists took the stage inside Munhak Stadium in the city of Incheon, South Korea. The pop stars, two Korean and two American, made up a brand new group that ushered in a change for Riot Games from a one-game esports studio to an entertainment entity.
It was the debut of K/DA and the band’s hit song POP/STARS, but it was also the debut of Riot Games’ MasterCard sponsorship which had only been announced about a month prior. In hindsight, the success of K/DA has had ripple effects throughout the last two years.
Riot Games has created a “Worlds Anthem” to go along with every international playoff since 2014 – but nothing created the hype that K/DA did. The accompanying music video was viewed over 100M times in the first month alone. It’s now topped 350M. The song reached #1 on a Billboard chart, it’s safe to say that’s a first for any esports company.
Since then, Riot Games has put an increased focus on music. 2019 saw multiple songs created for Worlds including the new rap group True Damage with hit single GIANTS, the music video has been viewed over 100M times on YouTube. While it hasn’t reached the heights of POP/STARS, GIANTS shows the success of the song wasn’t a one-time event and the developer is able to capture a cultural zeitgeist around Worlds.
This year K/DA is set to return, and Europe’s LEC partnered with Warner Music and has created parody songs of popular DJ hits sung by casters in quarantine – the same ones who threatened to strike after the NEOM deal.
On Monday, Riot Games announced a partnership with Spotify. The leading audio streaming company has entered into a multi-year deal as the official audio streaming partner of League of Legends Esports international events.
“Music from our events and the stories behind the competition deepen engagement with the sport,” said Naz Aletaha, Head of Global Esports Partnerships and Business Development at Riot Games to Esports Insider. “Our Worlds Anthems, for example, commemorate the pinnacle of the competitive season, the hard-fought journey of the teams who made it, and the mastery of the pro players. The music becomes a rallying cry for the community to come together and celebrate the best of the best of LoL Esports. Creating a sonic LoL Esports destination on Spotify will give fans more ways to immerse themselves in all things League before, during, and after the competitions.”
Like most brand partnerships on the international level, this deal is multi-faceted. Spotify is creating the LoL Esports Music Hub, a place for curated playlists like “This is League of Legends” and “Official League of Legends,” podcast series focused around the esport, and music picked by the top teams across the LPL, LCK, LCS, and LEC.
“Riot Games continues to act as both the label and distributor for most of its own game soundtracks and esports anthems as part of our effort to create content that surprises and delights fans and has appeal across each of its global regions,” Aletaha continued.
Prior to the official partnership, League of Legends was already popular on Spotify. The game’s official “artist” channel had over 5 million monthly listens over the last 30 days. The majority of those listening are people streaming the game’s official soundtrack. Spotify’s announcement of the new hub claims 4.8 million people are listening to the soundtrack itself.
In addition, Spotify is creating a new podcast telling stories around Worlds, but Riot Games has already been producing various podcasts around each of the regional leagues. The LPL, LCK, LCS, and LEC all have unique podcasts in the hub as well.
It’s been less than a year since Riot Games announced that it would be expanding beyond League of Legends into virtually every other genre. VALORANT, TFT, and Legends of Runeterra have all been released, with varying levels of success. Eventually, fighting game Project L will join the growing list.
But Riot Games’ music, video, and podcast production is what is going to truly set it apart from any other esports developer. This new level of creation from Riot Games didn’t begin with K/DA, but the success of the song certainly accelerated the company’s drive into an all-encompassing full-blown entertainment machine.