SHANGHAI — Riot Games, the maker of the popular “League of Legends” game, will “double down in China,” the company’s vice president told CNBC on Friday.
The U.S.-headquartered game maker announced a new studio in Shanghai on Friday with a focus on developing new games for a global audience.
“In China we have a lot of passionate players for ‘League of Legends’ and for Riot Games,” Leo Lin, VP and head of China for Riot Games told CNBC.
“So as a result, we would like to double down in China and continue to invest here including not only working on e-sports, but for example, game development and other things like entertainment.”
The Shanghai studio will hire “hundreds” of roles, according to a video message posted by Riot Games CEO Nicolo Laurent.
Riot Games is 100% owned by Chinese gaming giant Tencent.
Experts have raised concerns about the level of influence Chinese firms may have on companies they invest in or acquire, even if they are foreign.
Lin said that Tencent’s role is as a publisher.
“We are happy about the current partnership, and we will continue working closely. But that won’t change the fact that Riot Games operates independently and Tencent respects a lot of that … we are very confident that we will move forward together in China to serve our players,” Lin said.
China is a very important market for Riot Games because of the popularity of PC gaming which accounts for more than 32% of game revenue and nearly 45% of gamers, according to Niko Partners.
Riot Games’ flagship game “League of Legends” is a PC game. And the company has turned the title into a very popular e-sports, or competitive gaming, competition.
A screen shows the All-Star Match during the 2020 LPL “League of Legends Pro League” All-Star Weekend on January 2, 2021 in Chengdu, China.
Xu Xiaofan | Red Star News | Visual China Group | Getty Images
The League of Legends world championship was held in China in 2020 and will be held again in the country in 2021. Newzoo estimates that this year the e-sports market will generate over $1 billion in revenue globally for the first time, with China expected to be the biggest region.
But mobile games are also wildly popular in China and account for the biggest portion of overall gaming revenue in the country.
Riot Games has tried to latch onto this trend and launched a mobile game called “League of Legends: Wild Rift” last year in some regions, taking advantage of its well-known brand. It is yet to fully launch in China.
This is a change for Riot Games which previously focused on PC games. But Lin said it would be a one of the “most important” areas.
“At Riot Games, we would like to focus on (mobile gaming) moving forward … because our players now, a lot of them are playing on mobile. And ‘Wild Rift’ is a big move we are taking and it’s a big bet. Currently, we are very confident, it’s a very good product for our players,” Lin said.
While Riot Games runs PC-based competitive gaming leagues, Lin said that the company “will be opening up a mobile e-sports league very soon … in China.”