JAN. 11, 2015 • Mtoo
Impact: The basic issue Riot is attempting to tackle is reducing online latency (lag) so user inputs to physical servers scattered about the U.S. and Canada can be the fastest they can be. This is especially important to competitive online multiplayer games like LoL, Dota2, Call of Duty and Counter Strike. Often in competitive online multiplayer competition, if someone feels their ping/lag/latency is making them less competitive they get upset at either their ISP or the company publishing the game for not doing something about it. Because there are many network factors involved the game publisher often gets a lot of undue grief from its player base.
As for Riot, it has a clear interest in managing actual lag performance issues for its player base in a system-wide fashion to better the play experience and ward off any potential drop in daily/monthly play statistics, as well as virtual goods revenue. Further, Riot is on a mission to make the esports aspect of League of Legends into a big business and further legitimatize it in the minds of sports broadcasters such as ESPN where they have already made a lot of progress.
Publishers usually tackle issues of ping and lag by putting more servers into more geographic areas, so building out a proprietary network is somewhat novel. But leasing bandwidth from ISPs is likely the next big step for Riot as net neutrality regulation continues to be debated in Washington D.C. A big ISP could isolate LoL traffic and try to charge Riot more to relieve the bottleneck, which is why Netflix had to pay up with Comcast. So instead Riot seems to be going to the ISPs (at least that is what it is saying in public) with a proposal to pay for the dedicated bandwidth. That could be an expensive bet but Riot may not have a choice. League of Legends has become so dominant, and Riots esports aspirations are large enough, that the added expenditure simply becomes part of the cost of doing business.