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League of Legends’ Struggle to Get New Players Isn’t Surprising

League of Legends Art Showing Characters

League of Legends is struggling to attract new players and let’s be honest, is it that surprising? It’s commonly known as having a toxic community and if you’ve ever played it before, you’ve probably experienced it. Some players are ready to harass you if you’re playing poorly, not playing the way they want you to, or even if you’re playing well. It doesn’t tend to matter.

This is why I only played with friends when I used to play League of Legends many years ago. And often enough, I wouldn’t play unless I had a full group. The only MOBA I ever felt comfortable playing alone was Heroes of the Storm. I wouldn’t say that was toxic-free, but it certainly wasn’t as bad. Which is why it’s a shame Heroes of the Storm didn’t quite kick off the way Blizzard Entertainment wanted it to.

The article that made me want to write this is from PC Gamer where they sourced League of Legends game director, Pu Liu. Liu noted during a Q&A that they’re competing with more games and that “it’s not the same situation it was 10 years ago”. I wouldn’t disagree with that statement since popular games like Fortnite and Apex Legends didn’t exist a decade ago. With all the different free-to-play live service games around, it’s difficult for any developer to attract players.

Apex Legends Screenshot Showing Horizon

With that said, there aren’t many MOBAs directly competing with League of Legends. Off the top of my head, we have Dota 2, Heroes of the Storm, and SMITE with a sequel on the way. I don’t know if it’s worth including Heroes of the Storm since Blizzard ended support for it in 2022. However, I’d still be curious to see how these games are at acquiring new players in comparison. I wouldn’t expect to see Heroes of the Storm doing as well, despite being one of the more approachable MOBAs.

Blizzard wasn’t afraid to experiment with creative changes to the genre like removing last-hitting minions or shifting to players leveling as a team. While you still need to work together and make split-second decisions in team fights, the barrier to entry is significantly lower. There were a few times I tried going back to League of Legends and before doing so, I felt like I had to practice my last-hitting. I couldn’t just hop in and play casually. Even when you’re playing against bots, people on your team still manage to be toxic.

In cases like these, how are you supposed to learn how to play as a newcomer? Yeah sure, you can mute one annoying player or completely disable communications altogether. However, this limits your skill since it’s a team-focused game where you need to work together. Alright, so maybe you just disable text chat and leave pings on. Nope, if you’ve played League of Legends, you know people abuse pings to be toxic as well.

Heroes of the Storm Art Showing Characters

The thought alone of these problems put me off of wanting to play again. I can’t imagine trying to come back and learn all the new champions while having people harass me. It’s not a fun experience and that’s unfortunate since I enjoy MOBAs. If someone like me who enjoys MOBAs doesn’t feel comfortable playing League of Legends, why would a new person want to?

Fortunately, Riot Games isn’t completely blind regarding these problems as they’re trying to deal with it in the Valorant community. Valorant studio head, Anna Donlon, uploaded a video two weeks ago discussing how they’re attempting to deal with player harassment. It’s too early to know if their new systems will make an impact or not. But it’d be nice to see more game developers make an effort to improve the player experience. You shouldn’t need to just get thicker skin.

Creating a more welcoming community and overall experience will always help with encouraging new players to stick around. This is why smaller niche games often rely on a strong community. Otherwise, they’ll fail and potentially lose support the same way Heroes of the Storm has.

Heroes of the Storm Deathwing Flame Ability

With all that said, I’m just rambling and speculating since I don’t have the data in front of me. It doesn’t take a genius to say League of Legends has a toxic audience. But that doesn’t stop me from wishing it could be better so I could one day go back without having to worry. I can only imagine what will happen as the current players get older and their skill drops as a result. Will they keep playing when they’re the ones regularly being harassed or will they quit too?