League of Legends has been dominating esports for over a decade.
The mobile game industry keeps on booming, so it was time for this game to join the competition.
Just like its PC version, League of Legends: Wild Rift claims to be completely free-to-play.
Is it really free-to-play? How is the game monetized?
In this Wild Rift monetization analysis, I will answer these and many other questions about the game.
Unless stated otherwise, the data in this article comes from an internal source.
League of Legends: Wild Rift Overview
Riot Games’ League of Legends: Wild Rift was a highly anticipated title. This game has been slowly rolling out since October 2020, region after region. As of March 29, US players were finally able to give it a try.
The game falls into the MOBA strategy genre. Unlike on PC, the MOBA market isn’t as crowded on mobile, especially in the western market. Wild Rift only has a few major competitors: Mobile Legends: Bang Bang and Honor of Kings.
Over 35 million people have already downloaded the game, and it made over 21,8 million in revenue.
At the moment, South Korean players are the #1 spenders. However, it seems the US audience will take the wheel soon. In just a few days on the market, the US audience already got to 2nd place in total player spending! If this happened in a matter of days, we can’t wait to see what the numbers will look like on the US market in a few months.
You must be wondering – why did Riot create this game? What is the game’s target audience?
Here’s what Wild Rift’s Design Director, Brian Feeney says about this.
“Playing League of Legends on other platforms has been something that the players have asked for and wanted for a really long time now for all sorts of reasons. Whether that is the fact it fits into their lifestyle better, because of time constraints, or the fact that a lot of people don’t have access to a PC anymore.”
There you have it. However, there is no doubt that Wild Rift attracts many new players as well.
To attract the right target audience, the game puts a lot of focus into advertising. You will recognize Wild Rift ads by cinematic champion highlights and exciting gameplay.
When it comes to the game itself, I was interested in how this game handles:
- Expectations from the PC version
- Newbie friendliness
- Monetization strategy
To find all this out, I played the game and analyzed it for you.
The first impressions of this game will depend on one very important thing – how familiar players are with the PC version.
To compare opinions, we’ve asked a League of Legends veteran (and our colleague at Udonis) for his thoughts on the game.
Here’s his answer.
“I like it. I expected it to be more complicated, but in comparison to the PC version, it is as simple as it gets, maybe too simple. Nevertheless, it is fast-paced, you don’t need to use your brain that much. What I love most about it is that it runs smoothly on mobile, there are no lags or latency. Riot did an amazing transition job.”
On the other hand, a new player like me thought of it as quite overwhelming and complicated.
It appears as someone with basic LoL experience might have the ideal first-session experience.
League of Legends: Wild Rift comes with a forced tutorial. For any player new to the game, this kind of tutorial is absolutely necessary.
The tutorial consists of written explanations and a tutorial room. In the tutorial room, players can experience “fake gameplay” on the map where they fight their first minions and AI champions.
Even after finishing the tutorial, new players will have a hard time figuring it all out. For this reason, they can revisit the tutorial section at any time. There are also additional, optional tutorials.
Overall, the tutorial is doing a decent job at explaining the game.
However, players that want to play competitively will have to do some extra research. Casual players might be able to play, but a lack of understanding of the game will certainly not make them popular among other players.
The game’s map, Summoner’s Rift looks like a magical, immersive forest.
What makes this possible is the game’s timeless, stylized art style. Stylized graphics are commonly found in strategy games, as they perfectly fit the genre. This style helps accentuate unrealistic features in the game and helps players really get into it.
At the same time, it is timeless – independent of specific times or places. This makes the style relatable for years.
The gameplay itself is 2.5D. Players only get one view of the space, but some elements appear to be 3D. It also includes a lot of cinematic features (champion presentation, shop visuals, etc.).
Overall, this game’s art style serves its purpose – it brings the authentic LoL experience.
Many players will find the control system in Wild Rift familiar, as it’s similar to that of other popular multiplayer games.
It works on a “twin-stick” principle where players use the left half of the screen for movement and the right side to attack.
Outside of gameplay, we can see different features on the home screen. Here, the icons are pretty small and unobtrusive, except for the main thing – the Play button.
How Does League of Legends: Wild Rift Work
Wild Rift follows a typical competitive MOBA core gameplay.
This includes 5v5 gameplay on an open map, where matches last until one team wins.
Every player chooses one champion to bring into the match. Depending on their roles, the players divide across lanes (top, middle, bottom) or go into the jungle.
The combat consists of slaying AI monsters (minions) and the enemy players’ champions.
While they push or defend lanes, champions get stronger and stronger. The goal of the game is to destroy the enemy team’s towers across the lanes and finally – destroy their Nexus (base core).
Here’s our veteran’s point of view on the Wild Rift gameplay.
“I feel like some important PC aspects are left out. For example macro/micro gameplay, farming, objectives focus (dragon, turrets, Baron). Here, everything is about fighting. This is largely due to the game’s spell auto-aim feature. In the PC version, there is no such thing.“
As you can see, the gameplay is simplified. This is done to lower the entry barrier for mobile players. Besides, small mobile screens simply can’t deliver as much complexity as PC screens.
In Wild Rift, players can play with complete strangers or with their friends. Also, they can compete against their worst enemies, random teams, or machines.
Currently, players can choose between three modes:
- Co-op vs. AI
- Unranked PvP
Players mostly play the mode against AI until they feel ready to play against other teams. Once they are ready, they can play against other players without it affecting their ranking.
They can also play ranked games, which are the game’s main mode. Here, players can measure up against the competition and slowly climb the competitive ladder. But first, they need to reach level 10 to unlock it.
The progression in Wild Rift works similarly to the desktop version.
Unfortunately for many PC players, progress is not transferable. On mobile, everyone is starting from zero – whether they are newbies or experienced players. From what I’ve seen across the app stores, PC players aren’t exactly thrilled with this…
New players will get plenty of champions early in the game and will quickly grow their collection. Moreover, as they play, their player level will increase.
Besides this, player progression is visible in the Ranked mode. Here, players climb tiers in a ladder system during a season. This type of progression system helps players get a clear view of how they stand against others in this competitive environment.
League of Legends: Wild Rift Monetization Strategy Breakdown
In some of its advertising material, Wild Rift uses the phrase “always free-to-play, never pay-to-win”.
Sounds silly? It’s not.
Mobile games are known for more aggressive monetization than PC games. This motto is here to chase this fear away.
Naturally, the game has to have some way of making money, and it relied on a similar model as its PC version. Hence, if players are fine with the PC monetization model, they will be fine with this one as well.
Which Monetization Models League of Legends: Wild Rift Uses?
League of Legends: Wild Rift monetizes with in-app purchases and subscriptions.
There are different types of offers in the game, but they all share one of these traits:
- They are strictly cosmetic
- They can be earned through playing
With this approach, the game maintains balance and keeps gameplay purely skill-based. At the same time, it gives players additional perks to strive for.
Wild Rift In-App Purchases Strategy and Setup
The Wild Rift economy is set around three different currencies.
Blue Motes can be earned by playing, and even more by winning. They are used to buy champions. As such, this currency makes all players feel equal and motivates them to win matches.
Wild Cores are the game’s premium currency. When I say premium, I mean it can only be purchased with real money. Players can use it to buy most products in the store, from champions to all sorts of cosmetics. Nevertheless, none of this directly affects the player progression and match outcomes. Players can purchase Wild Cores in six different-sized packs with prices ranging from $4.99 to $89.99.
Poro Coins are the game’s special currency. It really is special. The thing is, it can only be obtained through in-game events and missions. This way, it encourages players to engage with the game outside of regular gameplay. With this currency, players can buy all sorts of additional cosmetics.
Store Offerings and Price Points
All of these currencies are strategically placed across the game’s store.
Let me guide you through the store and Wild Rift monetization strategy.
This section is the first thing players see when they enter the store. Therefore, it is designed to steal attention.
Here, they can see the store’s highlighted offers with attractive visuals. All the offers here are bundles (of skins and champions). They can be bought with the game’s premium currency – wild core.
Skin bundles allow you to see one champion in different editions.
For example, a female champion Leona has one skin with full armor that looks to be battle-ready. On the other hand, she also has a funny, barbecue skin. With a sausage, a grill, and everything. These bundles are here to show that champions have different layers of personality.
If players like a certain champion, they will want to own multiple skins for them. By buying them in a bundle, they get them at a lower price than separately.
There is also one mega-bundle that brings sets of skins for different champions. Now, this offer is not for everyone, this is for the whales. The value of this bundle is roughly $70. It is great that such an offer exists because there will always be someone who is willing to pay for it.
The Featured section is not only attractive, it is also dynamic.
For example, a few days into playing, an April Fool’s Mega Bundle appeared. Besides this seasonal offer, the whole section was completely refreshed after the game released a new patch.
This is the only part of the store that is not cosmetic-only. After all, different champions bring different abilities and skills to the matches.
However, it’s not something that ruins the game balance. Yes, players can obtain certain champions earlier than others.
No, it’s not a major advantage.
It can be a matter of days until other players obtain them without spending real money. Converted into dollars, a champion costs roughly $7.
The main reason why Wild Rift offers purchasable champions is that players have their favorite champions. This especially refers to players who have previously played the PC version. If they transfer to mobile, they will probably want to play with their favorite champions right from the start.
In this section, players can purchase separate skins. Here, the prices vary from roughly $5 to $13, depending on the skin.
Unlike skin bundles where it’s all about pricing, here, it’s all about the offer. Players have a whole variety of skins for different champions to choose from.
Here, players can find several bundles from the featured section, as well as some additional accessories.
These items include emotes and custom recalls. Players can use emotes in the chat to say things like Great job! or Not again… Custom recalls are special effects players use to teleport back to the base in a match.
The accessories are the cheapest items that can be bought in the game. They go from approximately $2.5 to $5. As such, they will appeal to players that want to have every cosmetic possible, as well as low spenders.
This store brings even more cosmetics. However, they can only be bought with Poro Coins. As I mentioned before, this means participating in in-game events.
Here, players can buy different champion poses, another cosmetic feature. They can choose if their champions will look confident, aggressive, playful, etc.
There is one distinctive offer here. It is called a Poro Chest and it’s actually a gacha with different cosmetic items. The odds for getting the items vary from 5% to 25%.
What draws players to these types of offers is the excitement. Besides that, they do not pay for the gacha with real money so it makes the gambling part more fun (and less controversial).
Wild Rift Battle Pass
During the time I was playing the game, a very important update was announced – a battle pass feature. This was expected because the PC version also has one.
It is called the Wild Pass, and it brings rewards to players for just playing. Of course, there is a premium version that brings a whole lot more, and it costs roughly $6.
The main prize of the premium Wild Pass is a special champion skin that can’t be obtained in any other way. Here’s how the game’s revenue lead Jeff Cho explains this move:
“We used a new skin line to differentiate as we want players to be able to immediately associate a given skin or skin line with the Wild Pass”.
This is a great idea because some of the key things LoL players crave are differentiation and recognition.
Player Motivation for Cosmetic Purchases
As you can see, the cosmetics offer in Wild Rift is incredibly big, diverse, and exclusive. What is it about them that makes players want to spend money?
To find this out, we asked a Wild Rift player from our office about his motivation to purchase in-game cosmetics. Here is what he said.
- To show off.
- I get bored with a champion. Therefore, I buy a skin that changes its appearance. It also changes how its abilities look. All of this makes the champion fun to play again.
- It simply feels refreshing.
- When a certain skin for my favorite champion bores me and a new one appears in the shop, I buy it. If I play this champion every day, I will buy it without much thinking.
- I like to collect skins…Let’s not get into numbers but I have plenty of them.
- Why not invest in a free-to-play game that is a hobby of mine? This way I get to support Riot even though their games are free.
As you can see, the main reasons for buying cosmetics come down to boredom and bragging.
Obviously, most players will not feel the boredom kick in a few days into playing. This happens after they find their favorite champions and actively play for a while. When it comes to bragging, this can be related to in-game success and gaining confidence, team play, etc.
Overall, the motivation to purchase cosmetic items in Wild Rift seems to increase with time spent in-game.
Wild Rift User Retention
Experienced publishers know about how inseparable retention and monetization are.
A well-done retention strategy can encourage IAPs, player LTV, etc. On the other hand, a good monetization strategy can improve paying players’ retention. The list goes on…
Here’s how good of a job is Wild Rift doing at retaining players.
- On day one, the game keeps 53% of players
- After 7 days, 23% of players remain
- On day 30, 9% of players are still playing the game
The game’s day 1 and day 7 retention put it at the top of the strategy genre. However, the day 30 retention numbers don’t look as bright. The average day 28 retention for strategy games is 17%, according to Benchmarks+ platform. As you can see, Wild Rift is pretty far behind here.
It seems that the players are driven by initial excitement which fades after a while. To be able to build a loyal (and paying) player base, this has to be improved.
Nevertheless, we can see some good retention practices in the game.
Early Game Victories
When players first start playing Wild Rift, they play team vs. bots matches.
Even though they know these are not real players, the games are still exciting and not that easy. However, the first few games always result in victory. They bring valuable experience, but also some confidence for the real matches that follow.
Just like its PC version, Wild Rift has regular in-game events.
During the week I played, there were two: Wild Rift Academy and Position Lab. Depending on the event, players can earn cosmetic rewards, in-game currency, and champions.
Events are here to keep the game fresh and encourage daily engagement. Moreover, as players get addicted to additional perks, they might boost in-app purchases as well.
In Wild Rift, missions consist of daily, weekly, and one-time tasks.
Completing missions brings weekly points which then unlock weekly chests with different rewards. As progress resets every week, players feel compelled to start again – every week.
Wild Rift Monetization Strategy: Recap
To answer the question from the beginning, yes – this game definitely feels free to play.
At the same time, its revenue chart looks great as well. To achieve this, the game created a complex monetization strategy. These are the most important parts of it:
- Focusing on a loyal player base
- Offering a variety of cosmetic offers
- Using a premium currency instead of real-life currency
- IAP offers don’t affect player progress
- Including a subscription feature
When it comes to creating the Wild Rift monetization strategy, Riot had a starting advantage over completely new games.
They already had valuable insights into their PC player base. The real challenge was to adapt the strategy to mobile. From what we’ve seen, it seems that they did a very good job.
Final Thoughts on Wild Rift Monetization
That’s it, this is everything you need to know about how Wild Rift monetizes (for now).
We’re looking forward to seeing what other monetization features Riot Games has in store for the game!
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