Riot Games has done a commendable job in the PH but…

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WHEN Riot Games brought League of Legends in the Philippines under the Garena banner, there was a promise to develop the Filipino MDR community, especially with events like Rampage and Globe Conquerors serving as an attraction.

But amid the hype of these events, there’s no denying the lows that took place. I remember most of my former colleagues ranting about Garena’s management of League of Legends in the Philippines, and I was wondering why?

Then I watched a vlog of one of the most famous MDR casters in the Philippines, Shin Boo “Sh1n Boo” Ponferradawhich listed a plethora of alleged issues from Garena, where the company put up so many hurdles to sustain a tournament.

Heck, they even banned localized airing of international shows MDR events, compared to Dota 2 which boasted KuyaNic’s WomboXCombo page and MineskiTV’s Twitch channel.

And it didn’t help that Item 1 tournaments were easier to organize due to availability of LAN and success with Filipinos Dota 2 teams like Mineski and TNC had on the international stage. Compare that to Mineski’s MDR team that competed in Worlds Season 3 – and got wiped out by everyone.

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And came Mobile Legends: Bang Bang who placed the last nail in MDRis the coffin.

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From what I saw, it looked like Riot’s mastery of the Philippines was already running out of steam. But with Valorant and Wild Rift entering the mix, Riot could finally make a comeback.

Riot is building hype around these games

There was an opportunity to fill a gaping void in our esports and gaming scene. Valorant is an FPS game that appealed to the Filipino audience, given our history with Counter-Strike. But unlike Valve’s traditional shooter, Riot’s FPS game featured a diverse cast of characters and personalities…just like popular MOBAs. Dota 2 and Mobile legends.

Of course, the free-to-play aspect also helped, as the former Bren Esports team – now Team Secret – said. Spin.ph in an interview last year.

So there is League of Legends: Savage Rift which covers the mobile gaming market, which has been on an upward trend in the Philippines, as seen with Call of Duty: Mobile and MLBB.

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And with Team Secret making headlines in both games as they banished Filipino pride from the global stage, it could be argued that these two games would slowly rise in the Philippine esports landscape, especially with Riot putting more emphasis on SEA in 2022.

Riot presents Zeri and Neon

Riot also opened 2022 by putting Filipino culture at the center of its last two esports titles.

Neon’s arrival on the Valorant scene was completely different from other Filipino characters in video games. She wasn’t just named after a famous personality, like Josie Rizal of Tekken 7 or Paquito of Mobile Legends.

Nor did Riot force her to adopt a Filipino-sounding name like Volta or Kidlat. They gave it a simple but catchy name.

And watching its trailer, there was a huge focus on Filipino culture. Besides the Gilas Pilipinas shirt and the walis tambothere was also the ring light and framed medals, referencing the normal room setup of Gen Z Pinoys.

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To top it off, Neon greets her new Sage mission with a “Hay buhay!” exasperated. – a phrase that many Filipinos could relate to.

In the world of League of Legends, Zeri isn’t originally from the Philippines, but from the fictional world of Zaun, but her story hints at a Filipino life (she even says “Hoy!” in her trailer). Zaun resembles the slums of the Philippines, while Zeri’s working-class background echoes the tough behavior of Filipinos.

Ultimately, their arrival showed us a better way to introduce Filipinos to video games that doesn’t rely on the usual stereotypes. It turned out to be a breath of fresh air that referenced the other aspects of Filipino culture that fans ultimately came to appreciate.

On the plus side, Riot still has a long way to go

While Riot has done a good job of penetrating the Philippine gaming and esports scene over the past two years, there is still a lot to do.

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Valorant slowly becoming the FPS hub for Filipinos, with Riot showing more community support…something Valve failed to do with CS: GO because they paid more attention to the western regions, despite Counter-Strikeobvious popularity in the PH.

But that doesn’t mean Riot already has an unopposed presence in the country.

NetEase just released Hyper Front, a game that looks exactly like Valorant— but on mobile. With the number of mobile gamers dwarfing that of PC users here in the country, it’s possible this could capture a fair share of the market.

After all, it’s happened before with Mobile Legends, which looked so much like a MDR clone that Riot Games sued. (The two companies eventually settled the case.) ML eventually became a hit in the Philippines, even overpowering rivals like Vanity and Arena of Valor.

Will be Wild Rift to go past MLBB? A look at the esports landscape shows that Riot is still far behind Moonton, which has developed into a franchise system and very aggressive marketing locally and on the global stage.

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Moonton’s MOBA mobile game has already covered Brazil and SEA, two regions with a strong mobile gaming presence, and fans are wondering if Riot could step up in 2022.

And with Neon and Zeri’s character reveals, it’s possible that Moonton or other publishers will follow Riot’s approach. I wouldn’t be surprised if they capitalized on their Filipino audience to push their marketing forward.

We will just have to see. After all, the company was able to learn from its previous flaws, as seen when it ditched Garena for its Wild Rift launch. Moreover, there are rumors that they are currently developing a mobile version of Valorant to capture the coveted mobile FPS market.

Will 2022 be the year Riot goes wild?

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