League of Legends, that’s what.

An in-depth article by the New York Times covered a lot of ground on the state of the multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) game, from the humble beginnings of its developers to its role as a major force in the e-sports scene.

One of the most notable parts of the article, however, was a statement that LoL is expecting to bring in $1 billion in revenue this 2014.

What’s really surprising here is that LoL’s income is strictly through cosmetic items that have no bearing on gameplay whatsoever.

This is a stark contrast to the business models of your average free-to-play title, where pay-walls hamper gameplay or put you at a disadvantage to paying players unless you fork out some cash.

Executives at Riot were reported to follow a mantra of “revenue is second, the player experience is first,” where they focus on providing a solid gameplay experience that makes players want to shell out cash in the first place.

The thing here is that players freely spend their money on a rewarding experience that continues to give long after their purchase.

They ‘invest’ money into a game they know will give them countless hours of enjoyment, and will be willing to do so again as long as they continue enjoying the experience.

Nexon CEO Owne Mahoney once lamented the smash-and-grab tactics of free-to-play games, where executives adopt a revenue model that prioritizes income first and gameplay second.

If the impending of League of Legends (LOL) is any indicator, then Mahoney has just received a huge endorsement for his business philosophy.

Impressed by the success of LoL’s business model? No idea what all this fuss is about?

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