League of Legends is getting a spin-off digital card game titled Legends of Runeterra, and the announcement made during the tenth anniversary celebration livestream is perfect timing from developer Riot Games. The company, once mocked for its pluaralization of games in its name despite sticking to only developing and tweaking League of Legends during its early years, is finally expanding its roster of titles to join the ubiquitous MOBA and its Teamfight Tactics autochess spin-off.
League of Legends is right in the midst of its World Championship tournament, a weeks-long affair that gathers the best teams from around the globe to battle for the number one spot that's the culmination of a year's worth of work. Riot Games took the opportunity - and the more prominent spotlight on its game - to reveal to fans what the future of League of Legends looks like, and it's shocking just how far-reaching its grasp will be soon. On top of Teamfight Tactics, which is steadily getting more support as it grows as an esport, and the upcoming mobile League of Legends, Riot Games is working on a previously revealed fighting title and an FPS game called Project A, the latter of which is a complete shock. Those games, coupled with Legends of Runeterra, mean Riot Games will soon have a major title in most of the fastest-growing esports categories.
The revelation of the new League of Legends card game is perhaps the most timely of the announcements from Riot, however. Legends of Runeterra will be competing in the same space that Blizzard's Hearthstone does, and the developer has already indicated it wants to avoid microtransactions and prioritize accessibility. That's already going to make the game popular with fans, but as it so happens, a lot of Blizzard supporters are actively searching for new titles to jump to in the wake of the many controversies surrounding the company's support - or lack thereof - of player freedom. That Legends of Runeterra will also find itself set within the universe of League of Legends doesn't hurt, giving it a huge amount of lore and popular characters to draw on to form a solid base.
Right now, not much is known about what the game will actually play like, although some players have been streaming an early build of Legends of Runeterra that looks more like Elder Scrolls Legends or Gwent than it does a direct competitor to Hearthstone. With that said, though, Riot Games has already shown a deftness for translating previously obtuse or complex play patterns - those found in autochess' earliest iterations - and making them easier to understand and more addictive as a result. With Hearthstone in a much more fragile state for both its players and its fans, and MTG Arena easily occupying the slot of a more complex, competitive title, there's a lot of room for Legends of Runeterra to carve out an identity of its own.
Legends of Runeterra will launch sometime in 2020, so it's not guaranteed that the digital card game climate will still feel as ready for change as it does now. With that said, it's a new title from Riot Games, a developer that has now demonstrated twice with League of Legends and Teamfight Tactics that it can take pre-existing genres and basically perfect them. What's stopping the developer from doing the same in a genre that suddenly feels like it has a lot more room for innovation and a lot more fans looking for alternatives?
Source: Legends of Runeterra/YouTube