5 ways to increase player engagement in free-to-play games

When launching a video game, game developers usually hope to have more players to play for a long period of time or as a daily routine. The strategies that make this happen often build around Player Engagement and KPI.

  • Player Engagement is one dimension of the experience of playing games and can be related to a multitude of concepts such as game flow, presence, immersion, pleasure, motivation, enjoyment, and fun.
  • Key Performance Indicator(KPI) is a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is achieving key business objectives.

These terms share a straightforward relation that through increasing player engagement, KPI would likely to increase, vice versa.

In this blog, I would use League of Legends, one of the most popular free-to-play games, as the model to show 5 methods of how Riot Games boosts their player engagement.

1. Battle Pass and Featured Events

https://support-leagueoflegends.riotgames.com/hc/en-us/articles/1500001988662-League-of-Legends-Lunar-Beast-2021 (Lunar Beast Event & Fiora Prestige Skin)

If you play League currently, you can hardly find a certain event or holiday come without a Battle Pass. The concept of Battle Pass not only provides a strong sense of accomplishment for players but also offers various types of rewards, which keep the players feeling entertained. Furthermore, it often releases during holidays, such as Valentines, Halloween, Christmas, etc. Battle pass and festivals may not seem relative at the first glance. But how about some prestige skins, summoner icons, or emotes that only available to Battle Pass? By offering these featured and juicy contents, players would more likely buy a Battle Pass and spend their time to win rewards.

2. Rank and Rewards

https://na.leagueoflegends.com/en-us/news/game-updates/ranked-rewards-2020/ (Reward variations for players in different rank)

In League, the rank you maintained can reflect your capability as a competitive player. No matter which champions you play, playing ranks show your intention to win against other players and prove how competitive you are. After setting your goal, you may experience tons of wins and losses to achieve it. As your goal gets harder to achieve, it would require more practice and learning. It means you need to spend more time truly understand every detail to win the game. The good news is you will receive different gifts based on your rank. The sense of accomplishment will truly pay back after countless games.

3. Cycled Featured Game Modes

https://support-leagueoflegends.riotgames.com/hc/en-us/articles/1500001988662-League-of-Legends-Lunar-Beast-2021 (ARURF mode — All Random Ultra Rapid Fire)

When playing league has become your daily routine, summoner rift may not give you the freshness as the first time you play. This is where the featured game modes (URF/Hexakill/Nexus Blitz) come to eliminate the sense of boring. By offering different gameplay for a limited time, it could help players to regain interest in League. Although it can’t guarantee to entertain all types of players, the majority would love to enjoy the featured modes for a new and unique experience.

4. Esports Post-events

https://www.riftherald.com/lol-skins/2020/4/14/21220998/funplus-phoenix-fpx-worlds-2019-skins-lee-sin-malphite-vayne-thresh-gangplank (Season 9 FunPlus Phoenix Championship Skins)

Esports championship may not have many connections with players compare to pro players. But, player groups love celebration in general, especially when their area wins the championship. The celebration often includes skin discounts of championship team composition, championship skins, and championship icons. These items provide a sense of belonging and contribution to players as they celebrate the esports championship, which increases player engagement spontaneously.

5. Collaboration Collections with Fashion Brands

https://www.washingtonpost.com/video-games/2019/10/29/this-is-what-louis-vuitton-looks-like-league-legends/ (League of Legends x Louis Vuitton)

Collaboration with the Fashion industry has become more and more common for games that have wide-spread popularity. The logic behind it is to attract customers from both sides of the business to ideally form a win-win situation. For example, the collaboration between the League of Legends and Louis Vuitton brings lots of attention from the public. Players who like LV or luxury brands would likely buy the Prestige Qiyana Skin. Customers who play League would likely buy the Ready-to-Wear collection of the champion, Qiyana. You may consider League of Legends and brands like LV are well-known and popular in their industry. But it never hurts to simply add more flavors to the plates.


Player engagement is not something under the veil but rather something that comes from the fun experience. Try to think about a game that you have played for a long time or just play recently.

Could you find some similar strategies used in League of Legends?

What other forms of player engagement have you found in this game?

If it doesn’t emerge at first glance, you can think about what makes you want to play that specific game(s) in an unstoppable way.

SMU Guildhall, C30 production track student

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