Riot Games launches HEARTSTEEL, the latest addition to its roster of virtual artists

Video game developer Riot Games has unveiled yet another virtual band featuring reimagined versions of League of Legends champions, blurring the lines between the realms of video gaming and music.

The new band called HEARTSTEEL stars Ezreal (vocalist), Kayn (rapper, instrumentalist), Aphelios (instrumentalist, songwriter), Yone (producer), K’Sante (co-leader, vocalist), and Sett (co-leader, rapper).

As with its previous virtual bands, Riot Games will continue to collaborate with real-life musicians in forming HEARTSTEEL. 

Baekhyun, member of the South Korean-Chinese boy band EXO, will be the voice of Ezreal. Mandarin singer-songwriter ØZI will embody Sett, while Nigeria-born artist Tobi Lou will be voicing K’Sante and Los Angeles based rapper Cal Scruby will be the voice of Kayn.

The virtual band is set to drop their first single, PARANOIA, on Monday (October 23). The music video will be available on YouTube through the Leage of Legends channel.

Commenting on the launch of HEARTSTEEL, Maria Egan, Global Head of Music & Events at Riot Games Entertainment, said: “Riot’s virtual artists have been some of the most innovative and beloved music moments for our players.”

“HEARTSTEEL is a deep collaboration between all our talented in-house creative teams and some incredible new artists.”

Maria Egan, Riot Games

“The idea of an all-male band has long been speculated on by fans and we’re so excited to bring this fantasy to life. HEARTSTEEL is a deep collaboration between all our talented in-house creative teams and some incredible new artists. The ethos of HEARTSTEEL is a supergroup of musical soulmates greater than the sum of its parts – a philosophy that our community embodies every day through their dedication to our games.”

HEARTSTEEL marks the latest addition to Riot Games Music’s roster, building on the developer’s journey into the virtual artist domain since 2014 when Riot Games introduced Pentakill, a virtual heavy metal band.

The six virtual members of Pentakill – Karthus, Kayle, Mordekaiser, Olaf, Sona and Yorick – serve as promotional figures for in-game skins. The band has achieved massive streaming success, particularly with hits like Lightbringer, amassing 40.4 million Spotify streams and 37 million YouTube views.

Riot Games also collaborated with musicians in the formation of Pentakill. Notably, drummer Tommy Lee of Motley Crue contributed to Pentakill’s second album, Grasp of the Undying, which secured the top spot on the iTunes metal charts in 2017.

In 2018, Riot Games unveiled K-pop girl group K/DA, comprising singers Madison Beer and Jairan Burns, along with I-dle members Miyeon and Soeyeon. K/DA’s debut single Pop/Stars achieved 321 million Spotify streams to date and nearly 3 million monthly listeners on the platform.

A year after K/DA’s launch, Riot Games introduced the hip-hop group True Damage, featuring in-game skins for characters Akali, Ekko, Qiyana, Senna, and Yasuo. The real-life musicians behind True Damage, including Becky G, Duckwrth, Keke Palmer, Thutmose, and Soyeon, delivered a live rendition of their debut song Giants at the 2019 League of Legends World Championship, performing alongside holographic representations of their avatars.

Giants has accumulated over 135 million streams on Spotify, with the band attracting nearly 565,000 monthly listeners exclusively for this track. The song has also surpassed 200 million views on YouTube.

Riot Games’ music division builds partnerships with artists “who can take the global player experience to the next level through music, live events, and IP expansion,” the company said.

To date, Riot Games Music has built a catalog of more than 750 songs including nine original Esports Anthems for the annual League of Legends World Championships, which have collectively generated billions of streams across DSPs.

These anthems have been performed by artists including Lil Nas X, Imagine Dragons, Zedd and more.

Riot Games Music also formed Sessions, a music project that centers around creators, available for anyone to use “without concern of copyright strikes.” 

The launch of HEARTSTEEL comes as Riot Games continues to bolster its presence in the music industry. In 2018, the company partnered with digital music services company FUGA, covering global digital distribution (excluding China and South Korea) for the entire musical catalog of League of Legends.

Two years later, Riot Games inked a multi-year partnership with Spotify, which saw the latter becoming the official audio streaming partner for League of Legends Esports global events: the World Championship, Mid-Season Invitational, and All-Star Event.

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