Riot Admits Dominion Wins Unearned, Retires Game Mode

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Riot Games recently released an update on the official League of Legends website announcing that the long-standing Dominion game mode will be permanently retired on Monday, February 22, 2016. In the announcement article, Riot explained that because there are so few players in the Dominion playlist, the matchmaking system draws from a wider pool of potential opponents thus creating games with “widely divergent skill levels after long enough queue times. Unhealthy queues that force players to endure long waits with fluctuating match quality ultimately creates an overall poor experience.”

In other words, this is basically an admission that Dominion wins aren’t actually earned; they are given by the flawed matchmaking system which either matches you against opponents far below your team’s skill level thus resulting in you effortlessly stomping them or against opponents too high above your team’s skill level thus resulting in a lopsided blowout in the other team’s favor. Very few games are actually evenly matched and close.

This is not news for Dominion, though. Back in 2014 I wrote an article for this column titled “Dominion is a Slot Machine” which conclusively proved Dominion wins aren’t earned and that individual player’s performance has little, if any, actual affect on the outcome of the game. It’s possible to get the most kills, most assists, most points, most captures, most neutralizations, least deaths, and STILL handily lose the game simply because you can’t be everywhere. You HAVE to rely on your teammates to defend certain points on the map in Dominion and being that there are so few people in the mode, you can’t consistently rely on getting ones who know what they’re doing. Which side of the skill gap matchmaking puts you on is like playing the slots at a casino.

Riot’s announcement article went on to say that less than 0.5% of League of Legends players play Dominion. The phrase “less than” makes the exact number seem vague but let’s assume that this means at least 0.4% of the population plays it, otherwise they probably would have said “less than 0.4%...” This seems like a miniscule number but what does it actually mean? According to a report from a little over a year ago, over 27 million people play League of Legends every day. I would surmise that with how much League of Legends and eSports has grown since then, that number is actually higher but let’s stay on the conservative side and stick with 27 million. 0.4% of 27 million is 108,000 people! This means over 100,000 people must play Dominion every day.

Although that number does still seem quite small compared to the 27 million overall players, it’s actually pretty respectable. To put it in perspective let’s look at concurrent users. According to that same report, there are 7.5 million concurrent players on LoL daily. 0.4% of 7.5 million is 30,000, which would mean 30,000 people are on Dominion at any given time. If you look at the Steam charts of concurrent users, that would put Dominion on par with games like Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Counter-Strike, and H1Z1 to name a few (numbers compared at the time of writing - see the full list here). So if Dominion were its own standalone game, it would rank as one of the most played games on Steam in terms of concurrent users based on these numbers. That’s not good enough to support? One has to wonder why those other games I just named even exist, then!

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This announcement has led to a lot of disappointment among Dominion veterans who made the fast-paced game mode their home on League of Legends, myself included, but it comes as no surprise. Riot has neglected the alternative game mode for years, causing it to degenerate into a horribly unbalanced mess. Many champions, especially new ones like Ekko and the more recently released Jhin, simply weren’t created with Dominion in mind. While they might be balanced on Summoner’s Rift, they are ridiculously broken on Dominion. I’ve written numerous articles on the subject such as “Top 10 Most Broken Dominion Champions,” “Why Dominion is Dead and How To Revive It,” and “Top 10 Most Broken Dominion Champions Revisted.”

The introduction of the Soul Anchor revive trinket was perhaps the single biggest mistake Riot made in regards to Dominion may have been the death knell to the mode as it took even more skill out of it. You literally get rewarded for dying and punished for surviving battles. If you finish a game with zero deaths, that’s a BAD thing in Dominion because of this trinket. No wonder the mode died…

Riot could have easily dedicated resources to Dominion. Estimates put their 2015 revenues at $1.6 billion. Don’t you think they could afford to hire some people dedicated to working strictly on Dominion? 100,000+ daily players is nothing to scoff at, after all. The reason why it is being abandoned is likely because it has been neglected for so long, the entire mode would need to be overhauled at this point. Matchmaking would need to be completely redone to be more accurate with the smaller player base. Pretty much ALL of the champions would require Dominion-specific tweaks. The items would need to be rebalanced and things like the Soul Anchor trinket, prevalence of bots in matchmade games, and the absurd “rubberband effect” that rewards your team for getting owned would need to be addressed and solutions to them tested. It’s just too much work.

Part of me wants to blame Riot for being greedy and for not supporting the mode for all those years when they should have been. When you’re pulling in $1.6 BILLION in yearly revenue, you shouldn’t really need to be making cuts to the game in order to “conserve resources.” But the other part of me can’t blame them because it’s so far gone at this point, it’s just not even viable to fix. This side of me instead blames the Dominion community at large who pretended the mode was fine and ignored articles like the ones I linked above. Ignoring balance issues doesn’t make them go away. There’s a reason you see the same champs every game. Instead of trying to get things fixed, veteran players abused the problem so they could feel like they were good when they dominated with overpowered Dominion champions like Leblanc or Ezreal. Had these issues instead been addressed when I raised them years ago, perhaps the mode wouldn’t have ultimately been scrapped. Impossible to say for sure.

If you haven’t played Dominion yet, go give it a try before it’s too late. Players have until February 22 to accrue 100 wins in the mode and earn a unique Summoner Icon that will never be available again (not something I have to worry about earning with my hefty 1,400 victories on The Crystal Scar).

So long, Dominion. You provided me a lot of fun over the years.

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