Riot Games has announced the host cities for the 2021 League of Legends World Championships, and for now, the competition is staying in Asia.
Five Chinese cities have been announced for the multi-venue event, with Wuhan acting as the centre of the events. Qingdao in the north, Shanghai to the east, Shenzhen in the south, and Chengdu in the west make up the five locations on the roster. It means that the competition remains in China for a second successive year. However, the 2020 edition was hampered by the recent pandemic and the final contested in front of a limited crowd of 6,000 in Shanghai.
“We’ve locked in the five Chinese cities after an extremely competitive bidding process,” said John Needham, Global Head of Esports at Riot Games. “We’re now ready to deliver on our promise to players with a multi-city tour for the biggest esports event on the planet.”
The 2019 League of Legends World Championships took place in Europe, and the 2021 event was initially thought to be heading to North America. Instead, China retains the competition, with 2022 finally seeing it hosted in North America, albeit a year later than initially planned.
The dates have not yet fully been confirmed, but it is known that the grand final will take place at the Universiade Sports Centre in Shenzhen on November 6. Usually, the competition begins in September and runs for five or six weeks, so it is expected to start in early fall. It is the most prestigious event on the League of Legends calendar, but it is unclear whether spectators will be in attendance due to the ongoing pandemic concerns.
In total, 24 participants will come together in China, with an eSports calendar for 2021 on Bwin explaining how they will compete for a prize pool of around $2.25m. It will begin as a series of playoffs in groups of four, before the top two from each group head to a knockout stage, featuring a quarter-final, semi-final, and then the showcase event in Shenzen. The host venue has a capacity of 60,334, but many more will be watching at home. The 2020 World Championships peaked at 46m concurrent viewers.
The decision to remain in China for a second year should not be entirely surprising. China has seen some heavy investment in eSports, with Gama Sutra revealing that Chinese conglomerate Tencent recently pumped $100m into another Chinese eSports company, VSPN. Tencent owns Riot Games, and therefore League of Legends, so it is in their best interests to see the competition remain in China for the time being.
The eSports industry in China is thought to be the world’s most lucrative gaming market, with 665m players, which is twice the United States population. A recent report suggested that gamers spend $42bn per year on their hobby, making it a solid and stable industry. The attitude of the central government certainly helps; since 2003, eSports has been recognized as an official sport by their General Administration of Sports.
All of this points to a stable platform for eSports in China, and it suggests that this year’s League of Legends World Championships could be one of the best. The promoters, Tencent and maybe even the government, will be hoping for a better outcome than in 2020 when South Korea’s DAMWON Gaming defeated China’s Suning 3-1 at the brand new Pudong Stadium.