Marc Merrill is the co-founder of Riot Games, the company behind the worldwide gaming sensation League of Legends. As of the beginning of 2020, League of Legends has over 100 million monthly players.
In 2005, Marc and his now co-founder Brandon Beck were typical college roommates — going to class, playing video games, and dreaming up ways to transform the gaming industry. Their idea was to develop a game that would only make money selling virtual goods within the game itself.
Both Marc and Brandon are non-technical co-founders, so they needed to put together a team that could make their dream a reality. They spent the next 12 months mapping out a business plan, overcoming every obstacle they could find, and finding funding to start building a team.
They officially launched in 2006, and the marathon of building a successful game and business began. After 4 years of pushing the project forward, they sold off 94% of the company for $400 million — and they kept on working on Riot Games and League of Legends. Today, both founders are still working on Riot Games as co-chairmen of the company.
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Highlights from the interview
- [04:28]: Marc talks about how putting the player at the center of his business strategy has been integral to his success. He and his partner Brandon are gamers themselves and felt underserved by the games market at the time. They strove to create a game that would nurture a community around it.
- [8:27]: Marc and Brandon simultaneously hold two main perspectives: the business perspective, and the player perspective. At the time, games from major studios like Blizzard and EA revolved around a high price point, usually $60, but the game studios didn’t perceive an incentive to build and maintain real communities around those games. Those communities did indeed arise, but the wishes of the player base were often ignored. Marc and Brandon saw the future in games with multiplayer communities, the ongoing development of the game over time to add new features, and a service oriented financial model.
- [12:10]: The League of Legends service model was influenced by the rise of piracy at the time. With the prevalence of torrenting in the mid to late 2000s, anyone could pirate just about any game. League of Legends did something different, with a model that was largely immune to that kind of piracy: a service model with monetization revolving around digital goods.
- [16:51]: Marc talks about the difficulties they had with selling their vision for the game to investors. The game itself was going to be totally free. There was no single player mode. While that’s quite common nowadays, it was new in the 2000s, and it was a tough sell.
Resources and links from the interview
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