With over 80 million monthly players, League of Legends has become one of the biggest games of the decade. To celebrate its 10th anniversary which is the most anticipated Esports events on the calendar, and the month-long tournament is taking place in Shanghai despite the ongoing pandemic. Even though tournaments like CS:GO major RIO and The International have been canceled.
Just as traditional sports have returned thanks to the creation of limited entry bubble-style environments and attempts at social distancing and limited crowds, so too has the biggest esport on the planet.
“We are totally committed to delivering the biggest spectacle we’ve ever produced in China to celebrate our sport’s 10-year anniversary. While we must remain nimble with our plans, we are eager to celebrate everything that we love about League of Legends with a memorable Worlds 2020,” Riot global head of esports, John Needham, said at the time.
HOW RIOT MADE IT HAPPEN
The first esport event to make the bubble environment work. The biggest logistical challenge the company faced was bringing all teams together and creating a way for worlds to go on in 2020 was, Riot executives said.
“Within Shanghai, all early stages are being held in one venue with the finals set to be held at Pudong Football Stadium,” Siegel said. “By limiting the number of venues, Riot is able to create a more controlled environment and a safe ecosystem for all participants. Transportation to and from the venues is highly coordinated with strict safety protocols, and the venues have thorough cleaning and disinfection procedures.”
Venue and regulation planning were the easy part, though. Riot’s next challenge was its greatest one. According to team owners, staff and Riot personnel, the most difficult part of organizing the 2020 worlds event was not reorganizing the venue or the spectacle but actually ensuring that teams could fly from their home countries to Shanghai after qualifying for the tournament.
Siegel said “The visa process, travel policies and COVID-19 testing requirements for flights were also varied by country, and we were actively monitoring and analyzing the situation as it evolved, even as policies changed literally daily right up to departures.”
However, not all of the qualifying teams made it. On Sept. 1, Riot announced that both Vietnamese teams, Team Flash and GAM Esports, would not be at worlds due to domestic travel restrictions. The format for the world championship was changed and reorganized for 22 teams instead of the planned 24. Both the teams that were not able to make it are still awarded a share of the prize pool.
HOW THEY ARE KEEPING THE PLAYERS SAFE
They had made it happen, provided that necessary precautions were taken and players and teams adhered to strict guidelines including limiting venues and transportation while ensuring that rigorous testing is available for all teams.
Teams traveling to Shanghai were all placed in the same hotel and forced to undergo a mandatory 14-day quarantine.
The bubble policies also call for physical distancing and a strict disinfection regimen, according to Jarret Siegel, Riot’s head of events for esports.
THE LOCATION AND AUDIENCE
Early stages or Play Ins have already begun and are being held at Shanghai Media Tech Studio, with no live audiences.
The finals will be played at the brand new Pudong Football Stadium. Riot chose to curtail the number of venues, and confine the event to a single city, unlike previous years, so as to reduce travel and create a more contained bubble. All transportation from the hotel to the venues will be coordinated by Riot.
When asked about Audience at the finals, Riot’s global head of esports John Needham said he and his team are looking to open up the last series of the tournament to a limited amount of fans, but they want to make sure that everything is safe for all players, staff, and attendees.
Needham further stated “We’ll see where we are when we get there—we have a few weeks yet to monitor health and safety at the event,” Needham said today during the 2020 Worlds media preview. “I think we’re going to be fine, and we’ll have a small audience in the stadium, but we’ll see. It’s gotta be safe.”
Last year, over 100 million people watched the League of Legends World Championship. The event had a peak of 44 million concurrent viewers. Time will tell how many people will watch Worlds 2020 at home and in person.