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Riot exec tells esports fans he’s going to keep spending

September 8, 2018

FILE - In this Aug. 29, 2014, file photo, names and faces of gamers are shown as they compete in a round of the League of Legends championship series video game competition at the Penny Arcade Expo, a fan-centric celebration of gaming in Seattle. The head of North American esports operations for Riot Games has a message for concerned League of Legends fans: “We’re not cutting budget.” (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

The head of North American esports operations for Riot Games has a message for concerned League of Legends fans: “We’re not cutting budget.”

Chris Hopper told The Associated Press on Friday night the company has no plans to pull back on spending, insisting the North American League of Legends Championship Series (NA LCS) will continue to spend what’s necessary to meet fan expectations. The league is set to crown its sixth summer champion on Sunday at Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.

Fans of League of Legends, a multiplayer online battle arena video game, have become concerned over Riot’s investment in the esport after the company struggled to secure a venue for its world championship and held other recent major events at smaller venues than normal. Some are worried about the game’s sagging popularity amid the rise of battle royale games like Fortnite, though League of Legends still has a large and loyal following.

Those fears weren’t entirely assuaged when Derrick Asiedu, Head of Global Events for Riot, released a statement on Reddit defending the company’s annual budget “way over” $100 million while noting that “if revenue does not pick up enough (in three years), our budget will need to decrease by some amount.” Asiedu said Riot is “experimenting with cutting back costs in some places to see how fans feel about it.”

“Some of the language in that Reddit post was sort of overblown in relation to the message Derrick was trying to get across,” said Hopper, the Head of North American Esports at Riot.

“I think he was talking more about trying to find the right places to focus on, putting costs into, trying to make sure the places where we’re spending money are of high value to players and viewers. A lot of that was more about event philosophy. On NA LCS side, we aren’t cutting budget. We have a product we believe in.”

Hopper did say there are “aspects of that post about the opportunities that we have to improve our revenue capabilities that are certainly on point. I think there’s a lot we can do to improve our fiscal performance.”

Hopper and NA LCS were criticized when the league held its spring championship at the Fillmore Miami — a venue that held fewer than 2,500 fans — even though the league has sold out major arenas like Madison Square Garden and Staples Center. Hopper felt the smaller venue would be more intimate and allow for a better broadcast experience, but the event wasn’t well received by fans frustrated they couldn’t get tickets.

“More fans wanted to be able to come to participate in the festivities and were limited by the smaller event,” Hopper said. “That’s definitely something we’re concerned about as we look at future venues, because the last thing we want to do is leave a fan disappointed who wanted to be able to come but can’t.”

Hopper said the league was unlikely to return to a venue as small as the Fillmore, but it is eager to explore events at mid-tier venues like college basketball arenas, where it can fit at least 5,000 fans.

Riot will have far more than that on hand for its Summer Finals on Sunday at Oracle Arena, home of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. The championship matchup will pit esport powerhouses Cloud 9 and Team Liquid.

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Follow Jake Seiner: https://twitter.com/jake_seiner

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