There’s a new girl group in town, at least if you’re living in the world of League of Legends.
On Saturday, during the 2018 League of Legends World Championship Opening Ceremony in Incheon, South Korea, video game developer Riot Games unveiled a new virtual K-pop quartet called K/DA in what’s being called a “mixed reality” performance that blended live staging and augmented reality [AR] technology.
During the opening ceremony show, Soyeon and Miyeon of K-pop girl group (G)I-dle and American singers Madison Beer and Jaira Burns performed the K/DA song “POP/STARS” alongside their League of Legends — or LoL, as it’s often called — in-game alter egos: Kai’Sa (Burns), Akali (Soyeon), Ahri (Miyeon) and Evelynn (Beer). Via AR, K/DA’s foursome were visible on jumbotrons in the stadium and on live streams as if they were actually there onstage.
“We believe there’s a huge overlap between League of Legends, esports overall and the music industry,” Viranda Tantula, creative lead at Riot Games, tells Billboard. “We’ve invested in building our internal music team with both an artist focused creative studio full of composers, songwriters and producers, as well as people who can perform all the services that you would see at a standard music label, such as distribution, A&R and promo.”
The 2018 League of Legends World Championship presented an ideal opportunity to explore the K-pop world, which was “a new space” for Riot, says Tantula. “We’re always looking for ways to create authentic music experiences our fans will love, even if it means taking creative risks trying new genres and styles.”
“When I first heard the guide demo version of ‘POP/STARS’, and when I first saw the character, Ahri, I really wanted to participate in this great collaboration and do it well,” Miyeon tells Billboard in a statement. “For me, especially, motion capture was so new and a good experience. I was so surprised to see my dancing moves and lip being applied to the character Ahri. As I started this great collaboration project, I learn more about LoL and Ahri and I actually played LoL with Ahri to understand the character.”
“I tried to feel like Akali and move as if I were Akali during the motion caption,” added Soyeon. “When I saw the result through the music video and the AR, I was very surprised because of how realistic Akali’s movements and facial expressions looked.” About performing, she said, “I was so happy to be offered and have an opportunity to be in part of the opening ceremony of renown LoL Worlds!! Not only Jaira and Madison, but also with the AR characters, I really wanted to be on the stage together.”
Soyeon also thanked fans for their support, in response to the music video for “POP/STARS” surpassing over 10 million views within three days of its release. On Monday (Nov. 5), the video trended on YouTube and exceeded 14 million views.
In the past, Riot Games has produced other musical acts, though they were entirely based in CGI video; in 2014, Pentakill‘s Smite And Ignite debuted and peaked at No. 10 on the Hard Rock Albums chart on June 21, 2014.
Along with “Pop/Star,” Riot also produced the song “RISE (Remix),” which was released on Oct. 24. The remix, which followed the original released in September, features electronic act The Glitch Mob, rapper Bobby of K-pop group iKON, electronic act Mako, and metalcore vocalist Telle Smith of The Word Alive. Tantula recognizes that the trio make an odd match, unlike the four women behind K/DA who all dabble in pop realms. “On paper [the three] might look like a strange combo that wouldn’t work. However, they all manage to come together in a super cohesive and visceral way, much like how people from all walks of life come together as a diverse variety of characters in our game, League of Legends.”
The goal of Riot Games’ music endeavors? Mainstreaming its content. “We’re dedicated to reaching our fans and community,” said Tantula. “[We] really strive to deliver our music everywhere they would listen to any other music.”