Happy birthday, League of Legends!

On Oct

On Oct. 27, 2009, a game called League of Legends was launched to very little fanfare. It was just another title—albeit a good, critically acclaimed one—trying to capitalize on the success of Defense of the Ancients, a popular mod for Warcraft 3.

Five years later, League of Legends is the most popular game on the planet. 67 million people play it every month. Last year it pulled in nearly $1 billion in revenue, more than any other game in its genre. More people watch League of Legends competition broadcasts than the World Series. League of Legends sold out the Staples Center in less than a day.

Two weeks ago a sold out crowd of nearly 60,000 watched Korea’s Samsung Galaxy White win the fourth ever Riot World Championships. The world has run out of stadiums large enough to contain League of Legends.

Five years ago, no one would believe how far League of Legends would go, or just what it could do for esports. But that’s nothing new.

When Minh “Gooseman” Le began work on Counter-Strike, a mod for 1998 release Half-Life, he surely never envisioned players play it to compete for hundreds of thousands of dollars. The game he set out to make, one he’d later complete called Tactical Intervention, more centered on the counter-terrorism themes in Counter-Strike, not the squad-based tactical multiplayer action.

But it evolved into an esports phenomenon.

The story of Defense of the Ancients, the WarCraft 3 mod that fathered the multiplayer online battle arena genre, had similarly humble beginnings. A mapmaker called “Eul” released the first version of the map, but it took Steve “Guinsoo” Feak to build it into Dota Allstars, a game which quickly developed a competitive following. Feak would later build League of Legends, while his successor as Dota shepherd, “Icefrog,” later moved to Valve to create Dota 2.

Right now, someone is unknown programmer is making something. It may not be big or popular yet, but in five years? It will be the next Counter-Strike, the next League of Legends, something new and exciting and entirely different. It will be something that changes the playing field, takes us to another level, makes us realize things we never imagined were possible.

Today, League of Legends is that game. Congratulations on five years of success, Riot Games.

Photo via Riot Games/Flickr