League of Legends has made almost $1 billion in microtransactions


Microtransactions. "Micro." As in, very small bits of money—a dollar here, a dollar there—exchanged for comparably small in-game items: A new hat, perhaps, or some healing potions. But boy, it sure adds up. Riot Games earned $624 million from League of Legends last year, and that was only good enough for second place on the top-ten free-to-play earnings list. In 2014, however, it's shot to number one, and is poised to be the first to break $1 billion in microtransaction revenues.

League of Legends pulled in an estimated $964 million between January and September of this year, according to SuperData research (via VentureBeat), making the magical $1 billion mark almost a sure thing. And it's not alone: Last year's first-place finisher, the military FPS CrossFire, is at $897 million, Nexon's Dungeon Fighter Online is sitting at $891 million, and World of Warcraft has brought in $728 million. All them have a good shot at making it over the hump.

Also noteworthy is just how badly League of Legends is trouncing the other big free-to-play games in North American, Dota 2 and Hearthstone. Both made the list, but way, way back in the pack: Dota 2 is at number nine with $136 million in revenues, while Hearthstone brought up the rear with $114 million. I'm not going to shed too many tears for either of them, but it's a remarkable gap between them.

The World of Warcraft situation is interesting as well. Subscription numbers have slid dramatically over the past several years (although they recently enjoyed a bounce thanks to the launch of Warlords of Draenor), but the spending on in-game items, which is all these numbers take into account—no subscription revenues, in other words—is way up: Its nine-month total is more than triple the $213 million it earned in all of 2013.

In a similar light, Hearthstone may be doing better than it appears, because the figures are PC-only and thus don't account for mobile spending. That still wouldn't be enough to get it near LoL, but it might move it up a few places in the list.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.