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Riot Games: "We see the shelf life of LoL as hopefully decades"

Coca Cola's Head of Gaming Matt Wolf says the company wanted to give amateurs an opportunity to become pro, and Riot Games says League of Legends isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

This week the Digitial-Life-Design conference is being hosted in Munich, Germany, with a variety of discussions on innovation, digitization, science and culture. On Monday, Riot Games Vice President of Esports Dustin Beck and Coca Cola's Head of Gaming Matt Wolf were on hand to discuss their partnership in a panel called 'Serious Play: Gaming Businesses'. The 30-minute segment speaks on why Coca Cola decided to partner with Riot, and the advantages of keeping everything in-house.

Wolf says that for the demographic Coca Cola is looking for, men between the ages of 17-30, League of Legends and Riot's tournament series has a higher viewership than the Super Bowl.

"The Super Bowl is a massively viewed event with 111+ million viewers every time the Super Bowl happens. But when you start to layer on a gender and certain age split that we're very interested in as a consumer packaged good company, you layer that on the Super Bowl and it comes pretty far down", said Wolf. "An audience that what Riot has created has actually eclipsed it several fold...Viewership is growing in such an amazing way, and unless you're in the games sphere it just doesn't resonate."

For those wondering why Coca Cola decided to sponsor the League of Legends Challenger Series instead of the LCS, Wolf says it's the aspiration to help amateur players reach their dream.

"We decided early on that there was an amazing opportunity and a really great sync with one of our brands Coke Zero about giving amateur players a road to the pros", said Wolf. "Most of us when we were young, had aspirations of being pro at something and some level. We wanted to work with Riot and give that opportunity to the playerbase. We wanted to be really authentic about it, integrate properly, and begin to tell those stories. The idea is that we're going to give opportunity for amateur players to become pro."

When asked why Coca Cola decided to partner with Riot Games instead of sponsoring an independent league such as Major League Gaming or the Electronic Sports League, Wolf said the connection to the developer is vital for the brand.

"We wanted to get close to the core of the experience", he said. "All these other groups are very very good and talented at what they do, and all of them friends of mine. But I think that in order to really win the hearts and minds of the game players, you have to win the hearts and minds of the game makers. So you want to stay close to the content and especially how we want to integrate, That's why working with the game makers is so important to us."

After partnering with ESL last year for European LCS, Riot built a new studio in Cologne, Germany for production of this year's European LCS. Riot believes hosting the event and producing the stream in-house is an important aspect of their broadcast.

"Esports hasn't really existed on this pro level before, and we wanted to treat our fans, League of Legends players, the same as any fan would come to expect of a European Premier League match or NFL game", said Beck. "Really to control that broadcast quality we were like 'do we hire someone from BBC sports or FOX sports to go build this out if they have no game knowledge it's really hard for them to do?' We've really had to homegrow this entire division within Riot to broadcast these games. We wanted to make sure it stayed authentic.

It's really cool for us as we don't have to go through a ton of different filters to get things moving and changing in that broadcast," said Wolf of Coca Cola's involvement. "If there's an issue or if we have an idea, some new cool creative idea, it's a phone call [away]. Because of the way [Riot] is set up, it's basically immediate."

In a question at the end of the panel on a potential expiration date for League of Legends, Beck says not to expect it anytime soon.

"It's a sport like just like anything else. Baseball has been around 110 years. I'm not saying League of Legends will be around that long, but we see the shelf life of LoL as hopefully decades."

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