Riot Games: Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill At USC in the late 1990s, Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck were bonding over video games and noticing that free, player-made modifications for the game Warcraft III were becoming wildly popular online. The two friends were so impressed by these mods that they decided to create their own multiplayer strategy game with an unusual twist: they'd offer the game for free, but charge players money for new characters or customizable clothing (or "skins"). Many investors balked at the idea, unsure that a free game—created by total novices—would generate enough revenue. After three rocky years of development, Marc and Brandon's company Riot Games launched League of Legends in 2009. Over the past 11 years, it's become one of the most popular PC games of all time, pulling in $1.5 billion in 2019 alone.

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Riot Games: Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill

Riot Games: Brandon Beck and Marc Merrill

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Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck are the co-founders of Riot Games.
Maren Bruin for NPR

At USC in the late 1990s, Marc Merrill and Brandon Beck were bonding over video games and noticing that free, player-made modifications for the game Warcraft III were becoming wildly popular online.

The two friends were so impressed by these mods that they decided to create their own multiplayer strategy game with an unusual twist: they'd offer the game for free, but charge players money for new characters or customizable clothing (or "skins"). Many investors balked at the idea, unsure that a free game—created by total novices—would generate enough revenue.

After three rocky years of development, Marc and Brandon's company Riot Games launched League of Legends in 2009. Over the past 11 years, it's become one of the most popular PC games of all time, pulling in $1.5 billion in 2019 alone.

Special Series

How I Built This

For all new episodes, go to the How I Built This page on Wondery.com Listen early and ad-free on Wondery+ Listen on Amazon Music