Riot Games’ newest employees are probably making the company’s first fighting game.
That’s the most obvious conclusion from the the League of Legends developer’s latest acquisition: Radiant Entertainment, developers of crafting game Stonehearth and free-to-play fighting game Rising Thunder.
In an announcement yesterday, Radiant said that it will shut down Rising Thunder—which has been in a public Alpha since its launch in August—on March 18, and will instead begin working on a new game.
Tuesday’s news set off plenty of speculation that Riot is looking to make a play in the world of fighting games. Radiant was created by twins Tony and Tom Cannon, who in 1996 co-founded the tournament that would become known as Evo. The development team for Rising Thunder included Seth Killian, who has long been a prominent member of the fighting game community. Killian worked with Street Fighter publisher Capcom from 2006 to 2012, when he left to lead the development of Sony’s Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale. All three were mentioned by name in Riot’s press release.
Rising Thunder’s gameplay may also give more credence to the potential of a Riot-backed fighting game. The game gained plenty of attention for the way it implemented special attacks. Most fighting games require players to quickly input a series of commands to execute a powerful special move, which can be intimidating for players new to the genre. In Rising Thunder, each special attack is tied to an individual button press, but with a cooldown period between each use. The system is not unsimilar to what appears in League.
Riot does not have a history in fighting games. But Tencent, Riot’s majority owner, does. The Chinese company published Xuan Dou Zhi Wang, a King of Fighters-esque fighting game for the Chinese market, which featured guest appearances from King of Fighters characters and generated some international buzz. But that buzz didn’t translate to financial success outside of China.
Riot does have experience with some of the newer developments seen in recent fighting games, most of which have been borrowed from League and other popular esports titles. The free-to-play model has been adapted by games such as Killer Instinct, while the gradual release of additional characters has been used in such titles as Street Fighter V and Mortal Kombat X.
League of Legends is the only game Riot has developed. But staffers have hinted the company is looking to expand its portfolio. In September, 2015 Ryan Scott, the company’s lead designer for research and development, told a fan on Twitter that he was working on a project that would “get the ‘s’ in the Riot Games name.”
In a blog post about a month later, Riot said that while it wasn’t ready to announce any details on games in development, “these future games … will be the types of games that we all love to play.”