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Does Legends of Runeterra have an esports future?

Legends of Runeterra

Riot’s free-to-play card game, Legends of Runeterra is finally out of beta. Along with it comes Rising Tides, the game’s very first expansion, which gives players more than 120 new cards and 11 new champions to use. While everyone’s focus seems to be on Riot’s other new title, Valorant, is it possible that Runeterrra will be the next big esports title?

Fighting to be king of the pack(s)

LoR joins titles like Hearthstone, Magic: The Gathering Arena and Gwent in the land of online competitive CCG. It will take some muscle to rise to the top of the landscape, but with the magic of Riot behind it, anything can happen.

Executive producer Jeff Jew painted a hopeful esports-oriented future for LoR in a recent interview. “One of the things we learned during the open beta was how much players were really excited about competitive play. That came through in our ranked numbers and just the player community asking about esports.”

Initially, the LoR team did not intend to make competitive play a high priority. “Our original goal was to not push esports super hard at the beginning of this game because we didn’t want players to feel like, ‘Oh, i have to be really good at the game right away.’ We just think it’s fun to come in and experiment. As we’ve gone towards launch, we’ve really started to put our sights on building a healthy, kind of, path to pro over long term.”

Is CCG still viable in the esports landscape?

Image via Red Bull/Riot Games

Hearthstone vet Sebastian “Xixo” Bentert, who recently transitioned focus to Legends of Runterra, cast some doubt on the future of LoR esports. “Strategy games have been performing kind of poorly in the last few months. After autobattlers fell down, I think card games have started to slow down with them. That’s just my assessment.”

However, he included a caveat in his statement: “There’s always a chance that a game gets big but it depends on how much the publisher pushes it, how it’s advertised, how many big streamers play it.”

If Riot puts even a fraction of the energy it puts into promoting League of Legends and more recently Valorant, it’s safe to say that Legends of Runeterra will have a competitive future. Only time will tell though, so stay tuned to @SlashShout for future LoR esports updates.

Theresa Gaffney

Theresa is a seasoned esports professional with nearly ten years under her belt developing content and running esports teams and leagues. She is currently the head coach for Messiah College's esports program and a freelance industry consultant.

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