Riot's choice is understandable, but controversial

China to Host League of Legends Worlds in 2020 – and 2021

League of Legends
Pudong Stadium

Image credit: Riot Games

After a month of speculation, League of Legends developer and publisher Riot Games confirmed that the 2020 World Championship will take place in China. Yes, it's Worlds news, everybody.

Worlds is Coming

The League of Legends World Championship – or Worlds as it is more commonly called – is the premier event in LoL’s esports calendar. Yet this year, many fans were wondering when and where it would take place and even if it would happen at all.

We already saw the Mid-Season Invitational, the second biggest event of the year, first delayed and then canceled.

With just under two months to go, on Saturday we finally got the confirmation that yes, Worlds is coming.

Video credit: Riot Games

Riot Global Head of Esports John Needham confirmed that Worlds will indeed take place and the event will be in Shanghai, China. Unlike in earlier years, all stages will be held at the same location, with the grand final taking place at the brand-new Pudong Soccer Stadium just over a month later.

Empty Stages and World-Level CGI

So far, it is not clear whether there will be a live audience for the finals as this will depend on local guidelines. However, Riot confirmed that the earlier stages will not have one and instead will focus on the “digital viewer experience.”

Worlds has already become synonymous with cutting-edge special effects such as the CGI dragon or the K/DA performance that made the virtual K-pop group an immediate sensation. No doubt Riot’s CGI team is already well underway to raise the bar even higher.

Controversial Choices

Interestingly, the article stated that Worlds would return to China next year and was scheduled for North America for 2022. This is the first case where League’s most prestigious esports event has been to the same region for two years in a row and it already raised some eyebrows among the community.

While COVID-19 remains the hottest topic and the situation appears mostly under control in China, human rights violations are also a hot issue at the moment – and China’s reputation in this area is far from sterling. Just days ago, LEC announced a partnership with Saudi Arabia’s NEOM only to quickly backtrack.

Of course, this decision did not come on a whim. League of Legends is massive in China and this solution may be envisioned to placate Chinese fans and as a guarantee that they will have the budget and a location.

There is also the elephant in the room – namely, that Riot Games is wholly owned by Chinese gaming and social media titan Tencent. Yet, so soon after the NEOM deal and with a lot of bad publicity around China, an announcement that it would host the next two world championships will not go down well with many fans.

The CGI will be great – but this still does not look good on Riot.

For more League of Legends, gaming news and analyses, keep it here, with EarlyGame.

Boyan Penev