As a fan, I look forward to the season opening of League of Legends (LoL) every year. There’s always exciting news, new content, and a cinematic that will give goosebumps and hype players and fans about the game once again.
So last night, I was expectantly waiting for the new cinematic to drop.
And, well, we all know what that “cinematic” was.
— League of Legends (@LeagueOfLegends) January 10, 2023
In the past years, Riot Games, the developer behind League, never failed to deliver and hype fans with their cinematics.
All of them delivered, especially 2020’s “Warriors”, 2019’s “Awaken”, and 2018’s “The Climb”. Every single one was action-packed, champion-centric, and lore-rich, making casual and competitive players care more about the champions and the game.
Then 2022’s “The Call” was probably peak animation and storytelling that got everyone talking about the game, what the lore pieces may mean, and speculating what comes next.
The graphics were realistic, the lore was rich, and the video was filled with so much action, along with a gigantic Rek'sai bursting out of the ground in the most epic way possible.
However, this year’s “anthem” or “cinematic”, named “The Brink of Infinity” was the exact opposite.
It was cold, emotionless, uninspired, and just empty (literally).
It reused the theme from 2018’s The Climb, and showed us what looked like an Unreal tech engine demo of the Summoner’s Rift, with weapons of champions like Aatrox sprawled all over.
On top of that, it had a few voice clips of LoL Esports (again!) in an effort to "inspire" players.
If it wasn’t called a “cinematic” or an anthem, it looked like a teaser of a champion that turned everyone into stone.
Or, more graciously, a LoL esports tournament teaser.
Riot Addresses the Backlash
Because of the overwhelming backlash Riot got from the community, Riot Games responded with a thread on the official League of Legends Twitter account:
A message from Riot about Season 2023:
We've launched a cinematic as a part of Season Start every year since 2018, and make no mistake: everyone on League knows how much you love them. So do we! (Thread)
— League of Legends (@LeagueOfLegends) January 10, 2023
“This year, there were some unprecedented circumstances that had us choose an alternate approach to the Season 2023 video,” the statement began. “However, we believed it could still embody League's broad universe and competitive spirit while celebrating the start of a new season.”
“But we’ve heard your feedback, and we want to acknowledge Brink of Infinity missed the mark for the action-packed, champion-led trailer you expected and has led to further speculation about our investment in League,” they continued.
Riot also said that they “should have been more communicative” to ease everyone’s speculations on Riot’s investment in League, and believe that the game has a “bright future" and they are "investing in that."
However, the statement did little to ease the community’s anger and disappointment — and I couldn’t blame them.
Many times, especially in the past year, Riot has been apologising for things like its Worlds 2022 Theme Song, about how grindy and underwhelming the Ruination event was, or even at some point replacing the voiceover of Akali.
But barely do players see any actions by Riot to make amends.
For example, after acknowledging that the Ruination, also called the Sentinels of Light, had gated story progression too much and that it was extremely grindy for most, they did the exact same thing for 2022’s Star Guardians anyway.
Then after saying that there’s a team working on bringing back Nexus Blitz, they came up with an explanation at the end of last year about why it hasn’t returned because "pieces of the NB UI experience were broken by unrelated work". While the second might be a plausible explanation, it eventually gets tiring for the entire LoL community.
And it seems like after such a long year of waiting for Riot to make it up to them, the community was expectant of what should have been one of the biggest highlights of the year: the season opening.
Instead, they were given The Summoner’s Rift, prodding them on to climb—which doesn’t feel as fun as it used to be.
Riot did say that there were “unprecedented circumstances” in the original game, but VALORANT, another game under Riot Games, also released an actual cinematic on the same day, while Wild Rift released three in 2022.
Surely, they could have allocated a couple of resources in advance for one of the game’s most hyped moments, right?
Could it be because Riot’s really spreading themselves too thin?
Riot’s been working on many projects, and new games, aside from VALORANT, Wild Rift, TeamFight Tactics, and Legends of Runeterra.
There’s Project L, the new fighting game, and the upcoming LoL MMO that we have yet to get more info from.
We’ve seen many devs and creatives transferred from LoL to other games, and it’s actually hurting what made their original game popular in the first place.
What can Riot do to make amends?
It sounds simpler than it is: Less talk, more action.
Riot needs to remember that the game that made them popular in the first place is League of Legends.
While the competitive scene has all the potential to make them tons of money, and their newer games rising in popularity, LoL can still hold on its own if they actually took more care of it.
Instead of finding ways to become the “popular kid,” they need to dig deep and get more creative with the actual game itself.
Instead of talking about the “competitive spirit” and “the climb”, themes that they think resonate well with what they think the theme of LoL is, they need to remember why non-pros try to climb in the first place: they care about the game, because of the stories connected to it, and because the players feel like they’re not just heard, but also listened to.
If they don’t get the players to care about the game, they will slowly lose their footing, even across the other games they’re developing.
And won’t if feel weird to have Riot Games without League of Legends?
Anna is a freelance writer and photographer. She is a gamer who loves RPGs and platformers, and is a League of Legends geek. She's also a food enthusiast who loves a good cup of black coffee. Views expressed are the writer's own.