Riot Games managed to hold last year’s League of Legends finals in-person despite the COVID-19 pandemic, and it’s giving the face-to-face competition another try as the virus (hopefully) subsides. The developer has announced that the 2021 World Championship will be held in Shenzhen, China on November 6th. There weren’t any mentions of safety measures (more event details are coming at “later dates”), but Riot was keen to tout the 60,334-person capacity of the Universiade Sports Center venue.
The 2020 competition in Shanghai relied on an “isolation bubble” to protect the health of competitors. While the event proceeded largely as planned, two Vietnamese teams couldn’t attend. There were also substitutes for players who couldn’t compete due to pandemic-related travel problems.
Riot’s second pandemic-era tourney reflects both the relative safety of the 2020 finals as well as a confidence that public safety conditions have improved enough to make a 2021 event more practical.
The decision also reflects an overall revival of in-person esports competition in 2021. While Riot never really stopped physical gatherings, its decision to hold the World Championship in Shenzhen comes as organizers of other events are increasingly confident that vaccinations will let them ditch virtual tourneys. Don’t be surprised if Riot’s announcement spurs other leagues to resume in-the-flesh gameplay, even if they require extensive safety measures.