League of Legends’ possible bubble
This is the worst time of the year for someone like me to be writing: Worlds is over, but Season 4 previews haven’t really hit the PBE yet. There’s three weeks to be hitting ranked to try to get Season 3 rewards, but I spend a lot of time writing about trying to win ranked anyway, and with few changes occurring it’s simply a quiet time as far as theories and advice goes.
So, now’s a good time for me to do some speculating on where League is right now and where it is headed. It has been four years since it released; challengers like Dota 2 and Smite have since released and another, EA’s Dawngate, is in beta, and yet another, Blizzard’s Heroes of the Storm (previously known as Blizzard All-Stars), is in the works. The MOBA space is large and in charge, possibly the largest competitive genre, possibly larger than MMOs. It used to be that World of Warcraft and MMOs were the default games du jour, the game that everyone played, used to play, or knew someone else that played it.
League feels like that game now, and World of Warcraft certainly doesn’t. Of all the MOBAs, it probably still has the largest presence. Dota 2 is very very large, but it’s hard to measure just how many people play it worldwide; 555,000 are playing it right now, but how many users do they have? Russia alone plays much more Dota 2, and China may as well. But since most readers here are American and non-Russian European I’ll guess that League is bigger.
World of Warcraft still has 7 or 8 million subscribers. Next month it turns 9 years old. It was always an inevitability that it would change and that its base would gradually shrink until the servers close. One day that will happen for League, but it is still a very long way away. But to many, the technical point of the death of a game isn’t the important part—it’s when the game begins to decline. And for League of Legends, that point might be happening soon.
World of Warcraft’s point of decline is somewhat debatable—the peak was either in vanilla or the first expansion, the Burning Crusade, but most agree the decline definitely happened by the time Cataclysm, the third expansion, had been out for long. For some, the second expansion Wrath of the Lich King, or some point during it, is when the decline happened. That expansion released four years after WoW’s initial release.
That is where League is right now.