There is no denying that League of Legends is a very fun game, while not extraordinary at the game, I love playing. I have been very heavy into highly competitive games as of late, single player games have not been able to hold me for very long. With ESports growing by the day, between Starcraft 2 and League of Legends, it is becoming much more fun to watch and play these games.
The one thing that keeps League of Legends able to remain a highly competitive game, is the way they built the micro transaction system. There is always a thin line between allowing players to pay to win, and not making it worth buying anything, therefore, not making money. Riot Games walks that line perfect, with a very simple, but effective system.
Riot allows you to purchase almost everything with two types of points. The first is Riot Points, these points can be purchased with real world money and used to buy things within the game. The second type is Influence Points, these points are earned by playing the game, with bonus points for winning. This creates a way for all players to purchase items without having to spend real money.
Of course, systems like this have been in place before, and you could still buy your wins, or it was almost required for you to spend real money to get anything out of the game. The real key to this is what items Riot allows you to purchase and the pricing of the items. The only items in the game that can not be purchased with IP are skins. A skin is a different look for your champion. It is a new costume, sometimes funny, sometimes cool looking, but almost never free. It has no effect on the winner or the loser of a game, you can spend as much money as you want on skins, and it won’t make you a better player, but at least you are feeding in style.
Everything else you can buy with both currencies in the game. Champions can be bought with both, but also they offer a set of free champions every week, that you can play only for that week. That way, someone can walk into the game and start playing without spending a dime, if they want, they can purchase that champion with Riot Points or save up IP for that champion. The cost in IP varies on how old the champion is, newer champions will always cost more, since they will be in higher demand, older champions are pretty cheap, I was able to buy an older champion four or five games into my League of Legends career
They also have a rune system in the game, runes are small artifacts that you can purchase to give your champions bonuses. The runes can be purchased with both types of points. Since these are the only items that can directly effect how powerful your champion is, this is where the line becomes very fine for Riot. They do it right though. The runes add bonuses, but they aren’t giant game breaking bonuses. From my experience the runes do not change the fact that a higher skilled player will beat a player who spends more money. Which helps the game stay honest as a competitive game. I can only imagine it matters when you are close to the highest tier of the game, when Rune optimization will play a major role in your champion’s effectiveness.
The other risk of a free to play game is that people will play the game without buying the in game items, so they have to be valuable. Riot does a great job making sure you actually want to buy items, but you do not need to buy them. The free champions is a great tease, if you start to become good with a champion, you will want to buy them, you may not have enough IP to buy them, so you will spend some Riot Points.
Riot has, by no means, created the free to play micro transaction model, they have, mastered it. I am not sure of another game with this level of success using this model. I like the concept of he model, but until LoL, no one used it correctly, or the games were were not worth even looking at. Since League of Legends has been a hit, Heroes of Newarth has gone free, Team Fortress 2 has gone free, and I am sure there will be more free to play games coming in the near future. The thing that really makes League of Legends rise above the rest is the fact that they are releasing new content consistently. Just recently, they announced a new mode for the game, Domination, which strays away from the classic Dota style of the game and creates a whole new game. In Domination, the goal is to capture and hold 5 points on the map, after holding points for long enough, you win. This will be a much more fast paced version of the game, filled with action. It will be interesting to see how the hardcore dota players take to this new mode, but I know I am going to play the shit out of it. On top of the new map type coming out, there is a new champion every two weeks, so there is always something fresh for you to play with.
Even with Valve releasing Dota2 in the coming months, and League of Legends is here to stay and will remain n the ESports scene for the foreseeable future.