I'm more of a dabbler in multiple MMOs than a diehard fan of any particular one, but there's one I've had on my radar for years. As a League of Legends veteran of nearly 12 years, the idea that Riot Games is finally set to bring its world to life as an MMO is exciting enough to keep me hitting Summoner's Rift for at least another decade. That is, if it ever actually sees the light of day – something I'm getting increasingly concerned might never happen.
The first tease of the League of Legends MMO came in 2018, but it was two years before the project would be officially confirmed. Greg 'Ghostcrawler' Street, an acclaimed World of Warcraft developer, was in the driving seat, and while it was clear the project was in its very early stages, there was a lot of faith in Riot. Its world is ready-made for an MMO, and the company has been quietly absorbing a lot of former Blizzard talent into its ranks, the prestige of both studios and their relative proximity to one another making it easy for developers to make the jump.
But it didn't take long before the cracks started to show. Just months after the official confirmation, Street himself suggested that he wasn't sure the game would ever ship, stressing nothing was ever certain in game development. At that point, he said that progress on the project was "going great", but that there was always a chance that the current team wasn't the right one to make the game. Barely six months after that, Street said that Riot would cancel the game if it wasn't good enough, noting, at least, that money wouldn't really be a factor in that decision. There was something refreshing about Street transparency around the realities of game development, but these weren't exactly the project updates I was looking for.
Then, just over four months later, Street announced that he was leaving Riot altogether. Citing personal issues, Street departed after nine years, telling fans that "the MMO is in good hands". Six weeks after that, however, one of those sets of hands made their own departure – Justin 'Xenogenic' Hanson, principal game designer on the MMO, announced his own last day at Riot in April. The company, it seemed, was hemorrhaging important staff at a relatively alarming rate.
Two significant departures from the same project in quick succession was certainly a blow, but in a company of thousands, some amount of turnover is a near-certainty, however unfortunate the timing might be. Capping off that awkward few months was the announcement that Riot's CEO, Nicolo Laurent, was stepping down from his role. Laurent – who has led the company through the lows of its sexual harassment cases as well as its notable expansions into new games, indie publishing, and acclaimed multimedia efforts – will have been an important part of the decision to develop the MMO in the first place.
His replacement as CEO, company president A. Dylan Jadeja, is unlikely to burn Laurent's legacy to the ground, but his message is strangely reminiscent of aspects of things Street has said about the MMO: "The goal [...] is to make Riot, unequivocally, the most trusted and authentic game company in the world. The kind of place where people know that everything they play and experience from Riot will be amazing."
Any change in leadership, however benevolent, is likely to take stock of what they think is – or is not – working. MMOs are notoriously difficult to make, and a project recently robbed of two of its most senior developers, one which has never been seen by any member of the public, could easily find itself on the chopping block. I hope that doesn't happen, but games industry projects get canceled all the time, and the future of this one is far from certain.
For something you can actually play right now, here's our list of the best MMORPG you can play in 2023.