While the virtual YouTuber (vtuber) market has seen an exponential rise over the years, it's time for virtual boy bands to shine.
Gaming giant Riot Games just announced its new virtual boy group "Heartsteel" inspired by one of its leading franchises League of Legends.
To kick things off, the boy band will release its first single titled "Paranoia" on October 23.
According to Riot, the band will have a "one-of-a-kind" identity, as well as a wide range of musical influences.
"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," shared Maria Egan, Global Head of Music & Events at Riot Games.
"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."
The Rise of Virtual Artists
While Heartsteel may serve as one's introduction into the world of virtual groups, the gimmick isn't anything new. In fact, Riot introduced a few in the last couple of years:
- A K-Pop virtual group called K/DA
- The virtual heavy metal band Pentakill
- The virtual hip-hop group True Damage
However, what sets Riot's virtual groups apart from AI-powered virtual artists over the years is that they're voiced by actual artists.
Among the voice actors behind Heartsteel are K-pop group EXO member Baekhyun, Taiwanese-American songwriter OZI, and rappers Tobi Lou and Cal Scrubby.
Meanwhile, American actress Keke Palmer, singer Becky G, South Korean rapper Soyeon, and rappers Duckwrth and Thutmost run True Damage.
Having real artists run virtual groups allows Riot to have a unique fanbase built on multiple foundations: fans of League of Legends, fans of virtual artists, as well as fans of each respective real-life artists.
Virtual Artists Set a Brand Opportunity
Beyond the streams and fan-building, tying virtual groups to the franchise they're inspired by presents Riot with an opportunity to maximize their assets.
When True Damage and K/DA dropped music videos for hits like "Pop/Stars" and "Giants," Riot released skins League of Legends players could purchase in-game, boosting the company's overall merchandise sales.
However, for Riot Games President Marc Merrill, the company's virtual artist efforts have no corporate goal with any set revenue growth target. Instead, the company is more focused on meeting the demands of its dedicated LoL fanbase.
"That’s short-term, and we’re about long-term value delivery to our players [...] That’s how we get a lot of engagement," Merrill concluded.
Edited by Nikola Djuric