Is League of Legends on Xbox Game Pass Riot's Way of Fighting the Future?

Published: December 19, 2022 11:00 AM /


league of legends

Out of all the games that were added to Xbox Game Pass in 2022, it would probably be safe to say that League of Legends, Valorant, Legends of Runeterra, and Teamfight Tactics stand out the most. While you can point to virtually any other game in the Game Pass catalog and conceive of a target audience, the target audience for Valorant or League of Legends on Xbox Game Pass is much less obvious. After all, as affordable as Xbox Game Pass may be, it's still never going to be cheaper than a game that is literally free. This brings up the question of why Riot Games is putting their games on Game Pass to begin with as it seems like a rather redundant move on their part.

Indeed, League of Legends has had a respectable following for more than a decade. Valorant has been out for more than two years. Generally speaking, Riot's games aren't particularly hardware intensive either as you can play Legends of Runeterra and Teamfight Tactics on your phone. All of these games are free to play too, so the barrier to entry is effectively limited to how much time you have (and how much you are willing to spend on microtransactions). 

If anything, it would appear as though Riot is getting the short end of the stick by putting their games on Xbox Game Pass. For example, if you were to play League of Legends through Xbox Game Pass, you get access to every single champion that is currently in the game as well as day-one access to any upcoming new champions.

Considering that there are at least 160 champions currently in League of Legendsand the cheapest paid champion costs about $2.25 USD, you are looking over $300 worth of champions for the cost of a single $15 monthly subscription. The caveat is that if you want to buy a skin for a champion, you would need to buy the champion first. Granted, these are all digital goods, so Riot isn't exactly spending any money by giving away these champions.

Of course, Microsoft could've simply offered Riot a mountain of money for all these perks. It's no secret that Microsoft's current goal is to grow the Xbox Game Pass subscriber base and this is the perfect way to gobble up a part of Riot's sizable audience. As for Riot, they might be getting more than cold hard cash, intentionally or otherwise. Sure, some new and returning players might spend some money on skins here and there, but the real benefit for Riot in this partnership with Xbox Game Pass is essentially brand loyalty. Think of it as a form of insurance against any would-be competitors. 

Take a look at Valorant's Xbox Game Pass perks. Once again, you get access to all existing Agents. The key takeaway though is that you also get day-one access to every new Agent as they're released and a 20% XP boost. League of Legends' perks has the same pattern. The same kind of perks are given for Teamfight Tactics, where you get access to four skins until April, at which point they are replaced by a monthly rotating skin. Legends of Runeterra is the odd one out in that no future content is being granted through Xbox Game Pass. 

Let people play as Valorant's Agents to get them to care about Valorant's story, simple as that.

This would imply that Riot sees the way the wind is blowing when it comes to gaming subscription services in general, especially now that $70 games are the new norm. It's much easier to sell a free-to-play game if you frame it in terms of being able to save money and more importantly, time. Would the average gamer be willing to jump ship to a similar game if they have to grind away for unlocks or pay anything more than $15 per month? Maybe, but they might be less willing. Even if players do leave, Riot can try and pull them back with a new character, making every big update a potential threat to the competition. 

Seeing as how virtually every major free-to-play game uses an identical progression system, it would be unsurprising if other games offered their own bonuses on Xbox Game Pass or PlayStation Plus. Hypothetically, let's say that Respawn sees that people quit Apex Legends because it's too much of an effort to unlock Legends. While there's a portion of their audience who is willing to spend real money to unlock Legends, people who quit because they want to spend their time elsewhere likely aren't coming back, which means they aren't going to spend money on the microtransactions that add up, namely cosmetics. Give them the cool stuff for "free" though, and they might form enough of an attachment to the actual game that they'll buy a skin here or there. 

In any case, it would be interesting to see what comes of this partnership. The question is will other free-to-play game developers and publishers feel the same way. After all, Riot is indisputably one of the largest and thus most influential entities in the industry and if they think jumping on the game subscription service bandwagon is a good idea then that might very well be the case. Plus it's hard to complain about people getting more game in their game at an affordable price.

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More Info About This Game
Learn more about League of Legends
Game Page League of Legends
Riot Games
Riot Games
Release Date
October 27, 2009 (Calendar)
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