Riot Games to open Mercer Island office

January 14, 2022 | by Scott Strandberg

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Future home of Riot Games on Mercer Island by Hannah Rankin, Courtesy Burgess Designs

League of Legends is one of the world’s most popular video games, and the company that makes it and many other esports hits, Riot Games, plans to open a Mercer Island campus in 2023. More than 400 “Rioters” — the company’s nickname for its employees — will transform a long-empty Mercer Island commercial building into a thriving modern office complex.

Left unoccupied since Farmers Insurance moved to Bellevue in 2018, the six-acre property at 3003 77th Avenue SE was purchased by Minnesota-based real estate firm Ryan Companies in April 2020 for $46.5 million. Soon after, Ryan Companies announced extensive plans to renovate and modernize the building into a state-of-the-art commercial complex, which paid off when it sold the space to Riot Games a year and a half later for more than $114 million.

Riot Games’ Los Angeles Headquarters, courtesy Riot Games

While Riot Games has had a small presence in the Puget Sound area for years, the company is excited to grow its footprint and construct a permanent location on Mercer Island. Riot Games’ president of games Scott Gelb says they chose Mercer Island due to the Seattle area’s “wealth of passionate and talented game developers” and that the company will look for “new folks from the area to join our teams.” Riot Games currently employs nearly 3,000 people at more than 20 offices around the world and at its headquarters in West Los Angeles. It plans to close its small Bellevue office of about 50 employees in the near future and rent a more spacious office complex until the Mercer Island property is ready.

Future home of Riot Games on Mercer Island by Hannah Rankin, Courtesy Burgess Designs

With its expanded Mercer Island location, Riot joins other gaming companies with footprints in Puget Sound, such as Xbox, Nintendo, and Bungie. Riot is also making additional investments in the region — and in esports — having recently announced a new remote esports broadcast facility in Seattle. The company’s best-known product, the 2009 multiplayer online game League of Legends, still has millions of active users playing 12 years later, plus spinoffs in the form of comic books and the Netflix animated series “Arcane.” Much of its success comes from the increasing popularity of esports: the annual “League of Legends” World Championship event draws more than 100 million unique viewers, with teams from China, South Korea, and Europe competing for the top prizes. 

The current plans call for Riot Games to open its Mercer Island office in 2023, with the 400 incoming Rioters mostly working on Riot’s first-person shooter game “Valorant.” The company typically uses a rotating schedule that includes three days in the office and two days working remotely, so the building will have 300 or fewer Rioters working on-site on any given day, and between surface parking and the on-site garage, the property has nearly 800 parking spaces, roughly two spaces for every incoming Rioter.

Seattle-based architecture firm Burgess Design did much of the work for Ryan Companies leading up to the sale, and Riot will further enhance the building interior with Gensler, the same firm that designed Riot’s Los Angeles headquarters. But neither Riot nor Gensler has discussed a plan for the north half of the property, where the parking structure currently sits.

In July 2021, Ryan Companies submitted a development application to the City of Mercer Island with plans to develop the parking lot as well – converting a significant portion of the property to an upscale townhome development, while preserving and enhancing ample parking for the office building with an improved parking garage. The townhome development would have consisted of 48 upscale units, each with private elevators, rooftop decks, and below-grade parking. With the sale to Riot Games, those plans are now scrapped – a disappointment to some as the townhomes may have been an exciting option for locals looking to downsize and others looking to move to the island and enjoy downtown living.

Still, the influx of hundreds of new workers and the addition of a new company to Mercer Island’s corporate community spells good news for nearby restaurants and businesses with the promise of increased future foot traffic. With Riot’s clear excitement about the region as a leader in esports, the new office will make the island home to a key player in the industry.

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