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Is League of Legends Free to Play an MMO?

Hey friend! I know you‘re curious if the hugely popular game League of Legends is considered a free to play MMO. It‘s a fair question since LoL shares some similarities with massively multiplayer online games. But there are also key differences that set League apart from traditional MMORPGs. To help explain, I‘ll go over what defines an MMO, how LoL compares, and why Riot Games is now expanding into developing a full-fledged League of Legends MMO.

What Qualifies as an MMO Game?

For a game to be considered an MMO, or massively multiplayer online game, it needs to provide a persistent virtual world where thousands of players can interact with each other simultaneously. The "massively multiplayer" part is really the core distinguishing factor.

Some hallmarks of MMOs:

  • Thousands of players active on a server at once
  • Persistent worlds that exist and evolve independently of any one player
  • Social gameplay and player interdependence
  • Character progression systems (leveling up, gear collection, etc.)
  • Diverse gameplay including combat, crafting, economy, roleplaying, etc.

Popular MMO examples include World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, The Elder Scrolls Online, and EVE Online.

How League of Legends Compares to MMOs

Now let‘s see how League stacks up to these MMO criteria:

  • Limited player count: LoL matches only allow 10 players total (5v5). Most MMOs have thousands of concurrent players on a server.

  • No persistent world: Games take place in isolated arenas created dynamically when you queue up. These maps exist temporarily for the match duration only.

  • No permanent character progression: While you unlock champions and cosmetics, all progression resets after each match.

  • Specialized competitive gameplay: LoL is exclusively focused on structured 5v5 team competition. MMOs offer many diverse gameplay paths.

So in summary, while League provides online multiplayer action, the scope is too limited compared to true MMO worlds to fit into that genre. LoL is considered a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game instead.

League of Legends Player Base Over the Years

Despite not being an MMO, League of Legends still has an absolutely massive player base. Here‘s a quick look at how many active monthly LoL players there are worldwide as of 2022:

YearActive Players (Millions)

As you can see, League has grown steadily over the years into one of the most played online games in the world. But these massive numbers only reflect individual LoL matches – not a shared persistent world.

Riot Games Announces League MMO Plans

Given League‘s incredible popularity and rich lore, Riot Games is now expanding the franchise into a fully realized MMO. Very few details have been revealed so far. But we know this upcoming League of Legends MMO will feature a massive persistent virtual world where thousands of players can quest together and experience the game‘s signature blend of combat and competitive play.

For League fans, this MMO represents an exciting opportunity to finally inhabit and explore Runeterra (League‘s fictional universe) in an immersive long-term way alongside friends.

Riot has emphasized this MMO will be a completely new game separate from League of Legends. Similar to how other major IPs like Warcraft and Elder Scrolls have both MOBA and MMO spin-offs that co-exist.

The Appeal of Free to Play MMOs like League

A major reason why League of Legends has thrived for over 10 years is because it‘s free to play (F2P). Riot makes revenue from optional in-game cosmetic purchases. This F2P model has carried over to many modern MMOs as well.

Benefits of F2P MMOs:

  • Lower barrier to entry: Players aren‘t deterred by mandatory subscriptions or box costs.

  • Microtransactions allow ongoing development: Cosmetics, quality-of-life perks, etc. provide revenue for continuous content updates.

  • Increased social exposure: Friends are more likely to join you if there‘s no upfront payment.

  • Flexibility for casual players: You can play as much or as little as wanted without wasting subscription time.

The F2P approach has been a game changer, allowing MMOs to reach wider audiences. And it ensures longevity by incentivizing developers to regularly support their games long after launch.

The Allure of Persistent Online Worlds

The core appeal of MMOs ultimately comes down to inhabiting an ever-changing virtual world alongside countless other players. MMOs provide a sense of continuity where your character, possessions, and actions persist between gameplay sessions.

Some of the key draws:

  • Experiencing a living, breathing world that evolves in real-time.
  • Roleplaying and forging your character‘s personal story.
  • Socializing with other players, joining guilds, and building communities.
  • Working together to take down epic challenges like towering raid bosses.
  • The thrill of open world competition and battles between player factions.

These emergent social dynamics and peer-to-peer cooperative moments provide endless memories you just can‘t get from a typical multiplayer match.

The Future Looks Bright for Online Gaming

While League of Legends itself isn‘t considered an MMO, Riot‘s upcoming massively multiplayer project will expand the universe into an exciting new direction that should appeal to both MOBA and MMORPG fans.

And with most major MMO franchises continuing to receive regular content updates, the future looks bright for persistent online worlds. Add in the rise of virtual reality and blockchain games, and we‘ll soon have more massively interactive experiences to choose from than ever before.

So while competitive multiplayer titles like League will continue to have their place, I think we‘ll see a resurgence for virtual worlds where thousands of players shape the course of events together. And that‘s an exciting prospect for gamers who crave long-term social immersion and endless adventures!



Michael Reddy is a tech enthusiast, entertainment buff, and avid traveler who loves exploring Linux and sharing unique insights with readers.