At a time when esports seems to be at its lowest point due to the pandemic, when almost all in-person international esports competitions, like The International for Dota 2 and CS:GO tournaments, are being pushed back into 2021, Riot Games gave us something that many people thought would be unfeasible: an international LAN esports event.
Worlds 2020 had all the things you would expect in a highly competitive tournament, such as upsets, new records, and some of the most intense matches in competitive League of Legends. All of it ended with Korean champions, Damwon Gaming, lifting the Summoner’s cup in Shanghai on Halloween Night. Yet, the most impressive feature of this tournament was everything that went on behind the scenes.
Riot Games, which owns and operates the 12 regional leagues of League of Legends Esports around the world, managed to get all their leagues back into action by late March after shifting to remote operations with all games being played online. The annual Mid-Seasonal Invitational event was canceled, leaving many fans worried that the same thing was going to happen for the annual Worlds event. It wasn’t until late July when Riot posted a video announcing that they decided to push ahead with their year-end live event. Upon the statement, Riot said they would implement a series of safety protocols for Worlds to comply with the Chinese government’s standards and decrease the chances of COVID-19 spreading among the players and team support staff. Once the players arrived they were subjected to a 14-day quarantine in a Chinese Government facility converted into a hotel then a 7-day quarantine in an actual hotel. Depending on how far a team got into the competition some teams had to stay in that hotel in China for almost two months.
This system had many similarities to the Orlando Bubble created by the NBA to finish the season that was postponed. However, unlike the NBA bubble, players were allowed to leave the hotel after the quarantine and explore the city of Shanghai. In fact, the grand finals of Chinese team Sunning and Damwon Gaming had a live audience of 6,000 people.
The significance of this is what it meant to the esports community. Going back to right before they announced that they were continuing with Worlds 2020, many fans believed it was going to be canceled. Instead, Riot Games managed to gives something that esports fans really needed in 2020.