Why Riot Games loves St. Louis

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Riot Games software engineers at work in Saint Louis. Photo courtesy of Riot Games.

St. Louis engineers play a key role in producing the online battle arena game League of Legends.

Headquartered in Santa Monica, Calif., Riot Games, a subsidiary of Chinese investment behemoth Tencent Holdings, has offices in far-flung cities such as Berlin, Seoul, Istanbul and Sydney. Compared to those cities, it would seem peculiar that St. Louis would have such a large presence for a multinational video game company. Why not just move all these people back out to the Los Angeles area, the video game capital of the world? Or what about New York or San Francisco with their technology prowess?

The choice to continue investing in St. Louis is an obvious one, said Mike Seavers, Riot Games’ director of engineering and also head of the office.  

“There are really awesome software engineers here in St. Louis,” said Seavers. He sees Washington University and St. Louis University, among other nearby schools, as great sources of top talent.

Part of the growing STL tech scene

Seavers noted the St. Louis office has actually been around since the early stages of the company, which was founded in 2006. The VP of Technology was based there and tapped into his network to get the office going. That “office” actually started as a few guys working in a basement.

“We eventually were told that wasn’t going to work anymore,” Seavers said laughing, and that began the offices in the St. Louis area.  

Today, the office comprises about 50 people, primarily with an engineering focus. The St. Louis team includes people dedicated to improving features, as well as conducting research and development.  

It helps that St. Louis has made a considerable push recently to become a tech hub for the Midwest. Just in the last few weeks alone, companies such as Square, Pandora and Uber have all announced the opening of offices in the region.

Riot Games’ St. Louis office has tried to tap into this emerging energy, sponsoring events such as Code Day. More broadly, the company will continue to have a symbiotic relationship with the larger community as people are drawn to a city with a highly vibrant tech scene, Seavers said.

Millennial heaven

The company has received high accolades for their work environment. Riot Games was 13th on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work for in 2015.” Moreover, the company –where nearly three-quarters of their nearly 1500 employees are millennials, was 21st on the publication’s inaugural “100 Best Workplaces for Millennials.”

According to Fortune, employees say the maker of the team-played online game “is no less team-centered. Staffers are so united they collectively call themselves Rioters, and 95 percent say the company has a family or team feel.”

For those intrigued by all this, Seavers may have some good news. The company plans to expand the office within the coming years, both in terms of space and headcount. Most of the people brought on board, at least initially, will continue to help on the engineering side of the company. Over time, more positions in other support areas will likely open up.

“We want to keep a nimble, focused office,” Seavers said. “But we’re really excited to tap into the energy and talent available in the Midwest.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that “Most of the work done for the online battle arena game League of Legends comes from engineers based in St. Louis.”  Although STL plays a key role in the development of the game and new features, most of the development work still happens out of LA.

Samuel Weigley is a freelance writer living in St. Louis, where he was born and raised. Before moving back to his hometown, he spent two years living in New York writing for several different business publications. His work has appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, The Huffington Post, Yahoo Finance and USA Today, among many others.

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