Riot Games to debut LoL “Virtual Pass” experience at Worlds 2023

Set to comprise of a mixture of digital and physical goods, League of Legends' new Virtual Pass could become a major revenue stream pro teams and Riot Games.

League of Legends Virtual Pass: Ahri

Riot Games’ president of esports, John Needham, has shared plans for a new League of Legends Virtual Pass aimed at providing value for fans and competing teams alike. The experimental product will further seek to bridge “online and IRL fan engagement”.

Speaking in a new blog post focusing on the future of esports at Riot and more, Needham says that the primary goals of the League of Legends Virtual Pass – which will firstly be tested at LoL Worlds 2023 – are to offer fans “a rich online Worlds viewing experience, a bundle of products and services at a tremendous value, and more ways to express their fandom and excitement.”

The pass itself, Needham states, will consist of “a bundle of digital products”, “unique physical products”, “and physical and digital goods” from sponsors. Long term, there could even be scope to add “more experiential features to bring fans closer to the action”, such as access to in-game cameras, and even access to players should team-specific variations of the pass materialise.

So why the need for this new pass? As Needham points out, esports seldom has access to the same revenue streams as traditional sports – namely “tickets, concessions, and merch”, as well as broadcast licensing. As esports fandom is typically virtual, there needs to be better avenues to ensure teams can “monetize their fandom through live events.” The Virtual Pass is part of Riot’s current solution to the issue.

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Another way Riot is hoping to generate revenue is through the ongoing evolution of the LoL Esports watch platform, which Needham asserts will become “an advanced commerce platform” through which offers of digital goods can be tailored to fans. This, hopefully, will also help earn teams a few extra bucks through the pushing of fan packs and other products they get a share from.