Dark Star Cho’Gath Global Fundraiser: Riot Games and GlobalGiving
Riot games is the developer and publisher of League of Legends, one of the most played games in the world. It is free-to-play, with optional in-game digital purchases for aesthetics.
In 2016 Riot started performing research to better understand the needs and social values of their playerbase, at both a global and regional scale. From their data, Riot is able to isolate a region and understand their needs against the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, allowing Riot to execute social impact programs accurately with player needs in mind.
Riot routinely hears requests from players to sell digital items for charity to support a variety of causes they care about. With Riot’s latest in-game charity fundraiser, “Dark Star Cho’Gath,” their strategy was to host a global campaign to generate funding for charitable organizations or programs at a regional level and mobilize players to achieve real impact in their own communities while participating in a global event.
Through this campaign Riot addressed a new and particularly difficult challenge: how to navigate the legal and regulatory structures to distribute grant funding to 20 international nonprofits from a global ecommerce campaign. Riot’s solution: Create a commercial co-venture with a Donor Directed Fund to distribute grant funding to charities around the globe.
Riot produces aesthetic changes to sell to players in-game (the most popular are “skins,” or costumes for the playable characters in the game). The Dark Star Cho’Gath campaign created a new skin in conjunction with the Make-A- Wish foundation. Bryan, a Make-A-Wish participant, created a skin concept for his favorite champion, a monster named Cho’Gath. When Bryan and his family visited Riot’s Headquarters, he also recorded the clarinet section for Dark Star Cho’Gath’s theme music.
Riot produced the skin, as well as an accompanying icon and loading screen portrait border, and sold them individually and as a bundle on the League of Legends platform globally for 4 weeks. Players who purchased the “premium bundle” received a special loading screen border that indicated to other players they supported the charity at the highest possible level.
Riot engaged their regional offices around the globe to identify unique, local nonprofits or programs that would resonate with their players. In partnership with GlobalGiving, Riot then performed due diligence, ultimately identifying specific outcomes that the community of players could support across all of the charitable organizations. Riot also committed a minimum donation of at least $10K per each participating charity.
As a result, Riot raised more than three times their projections for the selected nonprofits for a total of over $6.1 million. The vast majority of revenue came from the sale of the skin alone, followed by the bundle. Riot also experienced a bump in players who purchased the champion, Cho’Gath, who had never played the character before in order to support the charity.
Engagement results exceeded Riot’s expectations by an impressive 20% and players expressed being happy with the benefitting causes in their area. Riot also saw an unanticipated amount of local media coverage about the campaign that they normally hadn’t been able to achieve through standard campaigns.