The Individual and the Community - Research on the Motivations behind Elo Boosting

An in-depth look on what the community thinks about Elo Boosting and why some players use it.

Disclaimer: Team Dignitas does not endorse, support or condone the use of Elo Boosting or Account Purchasing services and sites. These services violate the Terms and Conditions of Use of League of Legends, as well as violate the Summoners Code. For Riot Games' most recent post on their stance on MMR Boosting, please read THIS.

Ranked queues in League of Legends provide players an arena in which they can test their skills against ambitious opponents and see how skilled they are relative to the rest of the region. It is a great environment for players who thrive in a competitive atmosphere, and high ranking players earn prizes, glory and possibly even a career.

But in any competive environment, cheaters will inevitably exist, and League of Legends is no different. Players who want to bypass the trials of ranked play will buy accounts that have been "pre-ranked" to a high tier, hire talented players to play ranked for them, or even just duo queue with a friend of higher skill to create an artificial advantage for themselves. In fact, in an anonymous survey roughly 12% of the community admits to having their account boosted at least once. This means that roughly 1 in 10 players has at one point or another raised their Elo illegitimately. What could motivate so many players to cheat? Why is their ranking in League of Legends so important?

The primary motivation for boosting seems to be the content that is awarded to accounts who achieve gold tier or higher in a season, which includes a fancy loading screen border, some cosmetic upgrades to your summoner profile page, and an exclusive skin that is not available by any other means. 45% of players that have used Elo Boosting services have been boosted to Gold (the minimun level of ranked play to qualify for every ranked reward being offered for that season), and 88% of players that have been boosted have purchased a boost to a "gold-or-above" tier. It would seem that the cosmetic rewards are a huge motivational factor for players purchasing Elo boosts.

I had the pleasure of interviewing a player involved with account selling and boosting about this and other topics, where I got an insider perspective on what drives the decision to get boosted:

What is it that you do?

Source: I boost players accounts in ranked to the rank they want and I get paid for it. I also deal with trading and selling of accounts.

How long have you been doing these things?

Source: Boosting of accounts roughly a year and four months. Account trading/selling for about 10 months.

In terms of Elo Boosting, how many clients have you served?

Source: Roughly 84 accounts.

What is the most common tier you have boosted your clients’ accounts to, in your experience?

Source: Gold. Most people just want the skin.

The statistics align with my Source's experience: 58% of Elo boosted survey respondants confirmed that they were boosted to their respective ranks because they wanted the cosmetic rewards associated with that tier.

But while this shows are ranked rewards are most likely the primary motivation for Elo boosting, the secondary motivations are still important in understanding the Elo boosted player. 42% of Elo boosted respondants stated that they sought Elo boosting services because they believed they belonged at that level of play, but were held back from reaching it themselves for one reason or another. My Elo Booster source commented on this:

In a survey I conducted, I asked players why they chose to be boosted to the particular ranked tier they ordered. I gave them three options: Ranked Rewards, "I believed I belonged at that level of play", and Other.
"I believe I belonged at that level of play" was the motivation for roughly half of all of the players that were boosted.

Source: If they belonged in the level of play they purchased, they could get there for free. I believe that it did place them fairly. Once you play your first 10 matches and get ranked, if you were any better you'd get higher by yourself.

Logically, my source is correct. His job relies on the system favoring more skilled players over less skilled ones. If there was some other bias at work, it would be harder to provide an assured boost.

27% of Elo boosted respondants had other motivations for being illegitimately ranked up. Here are some of their responses:

"Didn't have the time to grind back up to my promos during exams before the season ended." (Gold)

"I didn't have time for ranking, but now I'm plat (played myself)" (Gold)

"I was Platinum till 1 week before season ends. Losing spree came, then dropped outta there. So I paid to get back because I [love] the Platinum Border." (Platinum)

"Got tired of losing due to bad teams." (Platinum)

"Lost all my promos again and again." (Diamond)

"I wanted to make my mom proud." (Challenger)

These responses give the impression that players who do not buy Elo boosts for the ranked rewards or the track up to a more adequate level purchase it to recoup losses. Players who drop tiers or can't commit time to League of Legends for whatever reason look to purchase a "sure thing".

In addition to players that have purchased boosts, 24% of respondants that HADN'T been boosted had considered purchasing one at one point or another. It makes sense that the allure of paying for ranked prestiege can be a strong temptation.

I was surprised by the number of players that purchased Elo boosts, not just because of their own motivations, but also because of the clear stance and action Riot Games takes against players found guilty of elo boosting. My source, however, believes that Riot's threats to punish boosters and boosted players are all bluster:

You remarked earlier that Riot doesn't seem to take boosting offenses very seriously. Does this mean that you haven't had any action taken by Riot against you for the work that you do?

Source: Not once have I actually had me or my friends say they have seen any action taken upon the booster or boosted. Keep in mind I know about 100 boosters and each one has boosted anywhere from 20-400 people each. This is without VPN use too. So it would be pretty easy to detect.

This information seems to run counter to the recent Red Post by Riot Rhojin about Elo Boosting in the 2014 Ranked Season. Do you think that this is a PR front or do you think there is some other reason you have not seen much action taken against people in your line of work?

Source: PR honestly. When I saw it first thing that came to my mind was "what bullshit." I don't think there is a particular reason that I haven't seen people banned for boosting. Assuming you can find one person being boosted you could theoretically catch the booster.

The community also, at least subconsciously, acknowledges that they are not threatened by Riot's tough stance against boosting; only 24% of survey respondants stated that fear of punishment discouraged them from purchasing an Elo boost.

The good news is that, even if players do not fear retribution from Riot, they still object to Elo boosting for other reasons. Some players are suspicious and distrustful of the services themselves, with 16% of respondants stating that Elo boosting is too expensive, and 32% lacking confidence that the services wouldn't abuse their login information. 44% of summoners don't consider Elo boosting an option to them because they find it morally reprehensible, and 23% said that ranked rewards weren't important enough to warrant cheating.

The most surprising statistic was that 52% of respondants said that they didn't use boosting services because they didn't need them. They were confident in their ability to get to the level of ranked play they desired without the help of an Elo booster. This signifies many things: it shows that players have faith in the ranked system, that they will be placed correctly based on their skill level and not on other factors. It also signifies their belief in the concept of improvement: that with practice players are able to improve, and that with improvement comes success.

The true concern that the phenomenon of Elo boosting creates is its overall impact on League of Legends as a game and as a community. Do these misplaced players significantly disrupt the ranked system? Does their presence decrease their teams winrate? Does Elo boosting in general undermine the purpose of the ranked ladder?

The community seems to think so. 81% of respondants believed that Elo boosting and boosted players negatively impact the integrity of the game. This, means that roughly 19% of players think that it does not have a negative influence on the game. This is interesting because this means that there are more people that think that Elo boosting is not a negative influence than there are people that actually *were* boosted. So, even if every boosted responder stated that their decision did not skew the games fairness, there are still more *unboosted* players that support their position.

What is even more interesting is the cross-section of opinions between just boosted players. 57% of boosted players felt that their decision did negatively affect the game and community. This means that, even when purchasing a boost, they were aware of the affect that decision would have and percieved them negatively. It also means that their desire for ranked prestiege outweighed their guilt over the effect that unearned prestiege had. This revelation runs counter to the assumption that players who purchase these boosts are unaware of the affects it might have, or simply do not care about the people it might affect.

As the player has to justify to themselves the purchase of an elo boost, so too must the booster. I asked my source about the ethical aspect of his enterprise:

How do you think what you do influences the League of Legends community as a whole?

Source: It impacts many people, about 9 people a match and it takes about 7 matches a division, (63 people a division) get lowered or higher depending on what team we are on. But I still feel like it has a pretty low impact. I greatly believe that people will rank up to where they deserve despite elo boosters and afk/trollers.

Why do you do what you do?

Source: Get money while I relieve stress and train my skills as a player. Save up for books for college and other things.

Do you have any qualms about it?

Source: Not really, I haven't had a negative experience or heard of any. As for feeling bad for boosting players and affecting the ranked ladder, I kind of feel bad but then I remember that they will get where they deserve.

An interesting point that he brings up is that he believes that the accuracy of the ranked system will compensate for the impact that he creates by disrupting it. It is, at first, strange to hear that an Elo booster has faith in the ranked system when he serves clients that clearly do not, but one must realize that boosters rely on people having that misconception to create business for themselves.

With preseason on the horizon and a new ranked season beginning after that, the market for elo boosting will inevitably explode as players look for help with their promotional games. With Riot's recent statement about how they are turning up the heat on boosters and boosted accounts, it will be interesting to see how the two interests conflict.


Thank you to /r/LeagueofLegends and /r/SampleSize for their hosting of and participation in my survey. For full survey results click here.

Thank you to my anonymous source for his participation and candid responses.

Team Dignitas does not endorse, support or condone the use of Elo Boosting or Account Purchasing services and sites. These services violate the Terms and Conditions of Use ( of League of Legends, as well as violate the Summoners Code ( For Riot Games' most recent post on their stance on MMR Boosting, please read THIS (

Survey results come from a sample size of 256 respondants (33 boosted and 223 Unboosted). Because of this small sample size data my not be perfectly representative of the community and should be regarded in this context.

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