Hyper-Local: Riot Games Connecting With Players Through Culture
How Riot Games’ Japan team put together a locally and culturally resonant music video with mainstream regional artists
Going global does not simply mean releasing your games everywhere; it means connecting to your audience around the world organically. The latest in this series from Riot’s President of Worldwide Publishing discusses how the creator of Valorant and League of Legends has been able to do just that.
However, it’s sometimes difficult for a company to do that everywhere. For instance, Japan has a long and passionate gaming tradition that’s very distinct from other countries. The way we operate at Riot Games is by embracing local culture, weaving it together with our work to create a piece that’s both mainstream and traditional.
A recent example from Japan is our music video celebrating the launch of the Japanese character Yoru from Riot’s tactical shooter, VALORANT. To do that, Riot’s Japan team, based in Tokyo, reached out to three very different artists, each of whom embodies a different corner of modern pop culture.
We linked up with AK-69, a rapper who won the “Best Hip-Hop Artist” category at the MTV Video Music Awards Japan in 2015 and 2016, to write and perform the song. Our team paired him up with HANABI, a DJ group that blends traditional folk elements into their modern sound, such as in their work for huge IPs such as AKIRA and Studio Ghibli. For the visuals, the team brought in Masayuki Koujo, who creates heroic art in a calligraphy style called “Sumi-e” for franchises like Star Wars and Marvel.
Combining all their talents, Riot’s Japan team produced a music video. I am immensely proud of what they achieved; I think this isn’t just great as a “game ad,” it’s just a great piece of art, period.
Going local like this pays huge dividends. In this case, the video got coverage in major Japanese music and entertainment media, not simply gaming media. More importantly, it struck a chord with players, which is always Riot’s first priority. Even if it makes them think we’re actually a music company.