How Riot Games Personalizes Fan Engagement

Developer fosters connections with players, streamers and influencers inside and outside of its games

Cindy Saidiner spoke with Adweek's Ryan Barwick about how Riot Games is leveraging mobile to engage fans. Adweek
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The rise in mobile rise in mobile gaming has served Riot Games well throughout the pandemic, as users are looking for more ways to engage.

“The mobile platform is really suiting their needs during the pandemic more than ever,” said Cathy Saidiner, Riot Games’ head of global channel publishing, at Adweek’s virtual event on mobile gaming and esports today. “Gaming hours across the board are up and mobile in particular.”

The numbers for Riot’s games are astounding—at any given moment, over 8 million people worldwide are playing League of Legends, just one of its titles.

But the connection that Riot Games has with players goes beyond the game—it’s about the personalization that the brand brings to its interactions with fans, influencers and streamers. Saidiner shared three ways the brand is leveraging different platforms to personally engage with fans.

Creating games is a collaborative exercise

As a company founded by gamers with the goal of creating games not just for players, but with players, constant communication with the community is a high priority for Riot Games. Direct player connection is “one of the cornerstones of the Riot brand,” said Saidiner. “It’s in our DNA.”

Game writers and employees do that by creating many different points to engage with that community—from communicating inside the game with fellow gamers to partnering with streamers and influencers to gauge the needs and desires of users.

“We really do a lot to listen and work with players on a day-to-day basis,” Saidiner said. That includes inviting players, streamers and influencers into beta versions of games so that the creators can get direct insight into what players are looking for. Using information gleaned from those sessions and daily in-game conversations, Riot Games can respond almost in real time to things that the community is looking for.

“We’ll do things like change up a champion skin or change up the balance in the game based on that feedback,” Saidiner said. “We can do it really quickly.”

Players can build on Riot’s IP

Through a policy that Riot Games calls Legal Jibber Jabber, the company allows fans to not only participate in what Riot Games creates but also to create their own work using the brand’s intellectual property. As long as the projects are free and used to the benefit of the community as a whole, fans are encouraged to build off of Riot Games’ work, using characters or other aspects of the brand’s games.

“It’s not to say we’re not protective of our IP, because we do care how it’s used and we want it used for good,” Saidiner said. But, in a move that communicates a level of trust within the community, the policy permits gamers to use Riot Games’ IP in personal projects. “We don’t just allow it, we encourage it,” she said.

Inclusive community building

Prior to the pandemic, Saidiner said Riot Games used in-person events at the company headquarters with influencers and streamers to build enthusiasm around new games and within the community.

Since Covid-19 hit, those events didn’t stop—they’ve shifted online, where the brand has been able to extend participation well beyond what it had previously garnered for physical events, creating a more inclusive list of attendees.

“There was some quick pivoting,” said Saidiner. Riot had to find a way to get secure devices with new games to the influencers it wanted to work with in order to move the events online. Still, the pivot has had some advantages: “We were able to be more inclusive and and broaden the reach, versus flying people in and holding an event where you have to have limited numbers.”

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@klundster Kathryn Lundstrom is Adweek's breaking news reporter based in Austin.