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Riot Games acquires indie developer Hypixel Studios

Gaming
Hypixel hytale vista

This spells good things for the future (Image credit: Hypixel Studios)

Riot Games, the developer behind League of Legends, has been making big waves lately. The company that seems to be on top of the esports world, yet among all their other moves it has just acquired a promising indie developer.

This Thursday, a Riot Games tweet caused a fair bit of interest when the company announced the acquisition of indie developer Hypixel Studios.

This all happened alongside a ramping interest in Riot’s upcoming shooter Valorant and the much-anticipated playoff finals in League of Legends’ European and North American leagues. In between all of this, the acquisition of Hypixel might have gone unnoticed – if it weren’t for Riot itself making it clear via their social media and on the company website.

Who are Hypixel Studios

“Blockgames”, called so because of their Minecraft-esue look, are not particularly rare and most are quickly forgotten. In December of 2018, however, one of them broke the mold. The official Hytale trailer went viral and many gamers, especially Minecraft fans, stood up and took notice.

Video credit: Hypixel Studios

The Hytale trailer got over 11 million views and huge interest in its first week, and has since increased that view fivefold. The company behind the game is Hypixel Studios, who first started with a very successful Minecraft server before deciding to do their own product.

While Hytale is a player-driven sandbox with the typical blocky look, the game seems to mix it with a heavy dose of fantasy roleplaying and a sprinkling of minigames.

Hypixel hytale

Image credit: Hypixel Studios

The game is currently in its beta and boasts over 2.5 million signups. It is scheduled to release in 2021.

The Riot connection

While this move might seem as a surprise considering Riot’s far bigger scale and – at least so far – different areas of interest, the two companies have a lot of history together.

In fact, several of Hypixel’s developers are former “Rioters”, and Riot has supported Hypixel before, ever since the studio announced their plans in 2018. It appears that the studios took the next step to solidify their partnership.

According to the announcement, Hypixel has been acquired as an independent studio and will retain its current organization under CEO Aaron “Noxy” Donaghey. The two people who started the project, Simon Collins-Laflamme and Philippe Touchette, will remain as coordinators. In addition, the studio will establish a permanent office in Derry~Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Indeed, Hypixel is likely to expand its operations and is currently hiring for new positions. According to the Hytale team, the studio’s vision for Hytale will not change – and the extra support will make it that much easier for them to realize their vision.

Hypixel’s Simon Collins-Laflamme stated:

“It’ll help the studio take another leap forward in our journey from mod team to professional developers, and allows the team to realize our vision for Hytale”.

A sign of more to come?

Considering Riot’s current projects, it is tempting to wonder if this move might signal that the hugely successful studio has an interest in the genre. After all, in 2016 Riot acquired Radiant Entertainment, which at the time was developing a fighting game called Rising Thunder.

The game was soon canceled but last October, Riot Games announced that they were developing multiple other games. One of those, known only as Project L, is a fighting game featuring League of Legends heroes.

Does this mean that Riot is looking to cannibalize the project for an IP of their own? So far it appears unlikely. The big developer has already worked extensively with Hypixel before, which lends credence to the statements that the studio will be an independent project under the Riot umbrella.

In fact, a more interesting prospect is that Riot might be interested in slowly growing its share as a publisher. While the studio has not yet shown any plans to go the way of Epic Games and try to fight for the digital distribution market, it does not lack ambition.

Together with Valve Corporation, Riot has redefined esports and pushed it to the mainstream. If push comes to shove, the company’s pockets – and those of its owner, Tencent – are very deep indeed.

For multiple years, League of Legends has been the most successful game on any platform and despite Fortnite usurping their throne, Riot remains a juggernaut that can slug it out with the best and biggest.

Last year, Riot Games showed it is not afraid to expand by announcing projects for games in multiple genres, console releases and an animated series. In fact, just this week, it announced the first major tournament for Teamfight Tactics, LoL’s “autochess” mode.

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Make no mistake. Riot can go further. It is going to be a fun ride.

Meanwhile, if you want to have a taste of what Riot Games’ projects are currently up to, check our League of Legends and Valorant coverage.

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