University of Southern California

We Started a Riot
April 29, 2011 • by Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill

We started a riot...but not in the way you think.

After Marc Merrill and I graduated from USC, we rented an apartment in Los Angeles. We had two desks right next to each other with big hooked-up gaming rigs. Certainly there are cooler ways to furnish a bachelor pad, but we didn't care. Online gaming was a passion growing up and in college. It still is to this day. For us, the peak of gaming was team-based competition online. It was a few years later, in that apartment, that we started Riot Games. The venture went from an idea shared by two USC roommates to a leading online game company. It proved to us the power of an idea, timing, and passion. And it confirms the value of a USC Marshall education, which bends minds toward creativity, boldness, and global thinking.

In early 2006, we started to crystalize a thesis: Online gamers wanted games to feel more like a live service than a packaged good. They didn't want to have to go to the store to buy a disc; they didn't want to wait years between versions/updates; and they wanted developers to continue supporting the product after it shipped. Back then, players bought a game at a retail store - like Madden 2006 - then returned to the store to buy the new edition. But in a different business arena, the enterprise software space was being disrupted by SAAS: software as a service. Service companies swooped in and gained market share by developing and delivering product as a service. This offered a different business model where consumers could try the product for free, and producers could update it in real time.

We believed the same principle would apply to the games industry. A service-oriented company could establish a direct relationship with consumers, and, through community efforts, build a dialogue to help understand their needs, and then evolve and shape products based on their feedback.

We created our first game property around League of Legends and hoped that it would validate our theory about games as live services. Fast forward to the future: We were on to something.
We created a premium experience for core gamers, and made it available for free (with optional add-ons for sale like costumes for characters). We have accumulated millions of loyal players and they tend to stay with us for a very long time because the game is constantly evolving. They have helped us grow League of Legends into one of the world's most popular games, logging billions of minutes of playtime every month.

Marc and I have a lot less free time to play now, but we both still do. It's essential to maintain the direct connection with our customers. And to help us along, we've hired more than ten Trojans. The USC Marshall School of Business gave me the mindset needed to get Riot Games started. Now Marc and I want to do whatever we can to help the school develop the next generation of business leaders. We hope you'll join us by giving to the school that started a riot.

Fight On!

Brandon Beck, B.S. '04