Here’s a brief overview of one of the most popular esports titles across the world, League of Legends. Here’s how Riot Games took this MOBA to new heights.

Ever wonder when did League of Legends come out, how big it is, how many champions does it have or just what is this hugely popular MOBA?  This overview will prepare you for the rift, whether you’re a beginner or a Challenger-ranked expert.

Developed by Riot Games, League of Legends is one of the world’s most popular online game. This 5v5 MOBA genre stands for “Multiplayer Online Battle Arena,” although the game is also considered an RTS (real-time strategy).

League of Legends has had many game modes throughout its existence:

  • Ascension (Crystal Scar).
  • ARAM (Howling Abyss).
  • Classic 3v3 (Twisted Treeline).
  • Classic 5v5 (Summoner’s Rift).
  • One for All.
  • U.R.F. (Ultra Rapid Fire).

But despite their attractive differences, almost every mode runs by the same objectives: 

Slay minions, jungle creatures, and the enemy opponents to gather both gold and XP (experience points) to level up skills. Build OP gear to destroy enemy towers until you get to the ultimate objective. You must destroy the enemy Nexus. Believe it or not, this game requires macro and micro strategy, intelligence and dexterity to win matches consistently.

When was LoL released?

League of Legends fully released in North America on October 27, 2009. Its launch happened one year and ten days after it was first announced (October 7, 2008) with the name “League of Legends: Clash of Fates” but Riot took out Clash of Fates later.

When the closed-beta testing began in April of 2009, it had just seventeen champions available to play. They planned to release 20 champions in total but instead doubled for the full version. Its mobile version (Wild Rift) came out this year to North America on March 29, and it already gathers an average of 5 million monthly players on this server alone. It has come a long way since then. League of Legends has morphed many times after Steve ‘Guinsoo’ Feak created Defense of the Ancients Allstars over a decade ago.

Steve Feak/Guinsoo and Dota Allstars

Feak designed Dota: Allstars as a custom map of Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Image Credit: Swantheory.

He added some extra content to Eul’s original DotA map based on Warcraft III: Reign Of Chaos. His contribution to its development lasted until version 6.01 came out when Riot Games hired him. Icefrog, Dota 2’s current developer, took his place. 

Steve Feak was placed as the Design Lead for League of Legends where a weapon’s name was inspired by his work (Rageblade Guinsoo). Riot Games and League of Legends started from the bottom, without much hype or budget. 

Did the creation of Steve Feak grow enough to be considered a success?

How Many People Play League of Legends?

League of Legends has an average monthly player base of 118 million (118,554,722 to be exact) of 150 million registered players, which is a hard-to-achieve sum for the far majority of games, according to ActivePlayer,. It also averages 500,000 concurrent live players.

On Twitch, League of Legends ranks #3 among the “Most Watched Games” with 234K average concurrent viewers. This game maintains its spot as one of the most popular games in the world.

But there must be some places where it is most popular, right?

According to Statista, the US holds 14.44% of LoL’s player population. Brazil and Turkey follow it with 9.26% and 9.11% respectively. Then comes Germany with 5.97% and Russia with 4.98%.

Although op.gg provides more detailed numbers (only including players ranking above Bronze).

Korea2,249,606
Europe West2,010,943
North America1,232,157
Vietnam1,164,877
Europe Nordic & East1,110,123
Brazil952,249
Philippines832,277
Turkey574,592
Taiwan449,640
Latin America North435,771
Latin America South405,618
Russia147,030
Oceania144,718
Singapore79,194
Japan73,476
Thailand68,427
Indonesia35,390
League of Legends has found success in many markets in Asia as well as the West.

Note: China, even if it’s the biggest market for LoL, is so big that it’s not taken into account for this list. It’s estimated that around 1/10 of China’s population plays League of Legends, representing over 100 million players in the Chinese server alone.

While it started a few hundred thousand players with the NA server’s release, it reached 11.5 million monthly players by 2011 when the European one was released.

Fortunately for Riot, League of Legends gained heavy popularity in recent years. Riot added new champions, skins, items, game modes, and regular patch updates to keep the game alive. 

Three years passed (2014) and that number multiplied by 6 (65 million active players of 70 million registered). And it continued to skyrocket with 100 million in 2017, but the trend stopped in 2018, with a slight reduction to 75 million players.

It made a comeback last year (between 100-120 million players in 2020) as almost any other online game during the pandemic. But even so, it maintains mostly thanks to streaming platforms and its content creators, whose massive fan bases contribute to the game’s player count.

So far, to be cited as the world’s most-watched and largest esport game, composed of 13 leagues, with 109 teams and 545 players in total. It was also nominated for “Best Esports Game” at The Game Awards in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, winning the last two.

When Did League of Legends Become an Esport? 

We could say LoL esports humble beginnings happened during an era called “Pre-Worlds,” where the first tournament events were hosted in LAN format by MLG, IGN, and the ESL for North American and European teams. Here’s where teams like TSM and CLG were born.

When were the first Worlds, and what was its prize pool?

An image of the League of Legends Worlds Championships 2019
The 2019 League of Legends World Championship Finals at AccorHotels Arena. (Photo by Bartosz Plotka/Riot Games)

The notorious 2011’s Season One League of Legends World Championship took place in Sweden at DreamHack Summer, with eight participants competing for a  $100,000 prize pool.

Viewership numbers were impressive at the time (1.69 million unique viewers and 210,000 watching the final between Fnatic and Against All Authority (2 – 1)).

Source: DreamHack.

Judging by the picture, it looks smaller than today’s filled stadiums. But let’s not forget that this was considered one of the biggest esports competitions ever held in those days. 

Of course, the League of Legends competitive scene scaled its prize pool and viewership:

Season + YearWinning Team Prize PoolViewership
Season 2 (2012)Taipei Assassins$1 million8 million viewers
Season 3 (2013)SK Telecom T1$1 million32 million viewers
Season 4 (2014)Samsung Galaxy White$1 million27 million viewers
Season 5 (2015)SK Telecom T1$1 million36 million viewers
Season 6 (2016)SK Telecom T1$2,680 million43 million viewers
Season 7 (2017)Samsung Galaxy White$1,540 million 60 million viewers
Season 8 (2018)Invictus Gaming$2,418 million99.6 million viewers
Season 9 (2019)FunPlus Phoenix$834,37544 million viewers
Season 10 (2020)Damwon Gaming$556,2503.8 million viewers

The Mid-Season Invitational and the All-Stars are two among all the relevant international tournaments held for League of Legends every year. Here’s a list of other LoL’s regional leagues:  

Current League Esports structure overview

League of Legends Championship Series (LCS)North America
League of Legends European Championship (LEC)Europe
League of Legends Champions Korea (LCK)South Korea
League of Legends Pro League (LPL)China
Pacific Championship Series (PCS)Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macau, and South East Asia
Vietnam Championship Series (VCS)Vietnam
League of Legends Continental League (LCL)Russia
Turkish Championship League (TCL)Turkey
Campeonato Brasileiro de League of Legends (CBLOL)Brazil
Liga LatinoAmérica (LLA)Latin America
League of Legends Japan League (LJL)Japan
Oceanic Pro League (OPL)Oceania

How Often Are Champions Added to League of Legends?

If 2021 follows the trends of 2020 Champion release dates, then we could say champions are added every 2-3 months, making it 6 champions per year, as for last year (Sett, Lillia, Yone, Samira, Seraphine, and Rell).

How many champions are in LoL?

At the time of writing, there are a total of 155 champions in League of Legends.

When was the last champion added to the League of legends?

Gwen, the Hallowed Seamstress, was the last champion added into Patch 11.8 on April 15th, just as online users predicted when looking at the League of Legends patch schedule. It made sense because Patch 11.7 on March 31 was when she hit the PBE, before official release. Gwen’s comes three months after the release of Viego, The Ruined King (January 22nd).

When is the next League of Legends patch?

The next patch is 11.9 and it should come out on April 28th. Riot Games has been updating the game since its first release. 

Despite all of the content included, they keep balancing or adding things into (and also removing out) twice per month. Although they sometimes skip this pattern and launch 1-3 monthly patch updates.

Stay tuned to Esports.gg for the latest esports news and updates.

Featured Image Credit: Riot Games.
Flavio Spertini -

Flavio Spertini

Flavio "Scaryplay" Spertini is a 22-year old medical student in Rome. When he's not writing about esports he is brushing up on his Japanese.