The pulse of eSports14 December 2020
/ The League of Legends World Championship showcased the present and future of eSports /
After the pandemic, the packed stadiums we were used to may never come back, but what we saw at the Pudong Stadium in Shanghai on October 31st may well be the new definition of “packed”: 6,312 people in a 33,000 seat stadium, all distanced and wearing face masks, and who had won their ticket at a lottery draw among over 3.2 million requests. The occasion was the final of the League of Legends World Championship, possibly the biggest yearly event in eSports, currently in its 10th year.
In the last few years, more people have watched this tournament than the Super Bowl or the NBA Finals. This year’s edition was originally intended as a big 10th anniversary celebration, the biggest and most expansive event that League of Legends creators and tournament organizers Riot Games had ever organized. Then COVID-19 happened, and for a time the whole event was hanging on a line. In the end, Riot Games changed the organization around: they had the event play “in a bubble” to avoid pandemic-related risks, but they also created a big blowout with extended reality to allow participants and viewers an exceptional experience.
On October 31st, after a tournament that started with 22 professional teams from around the world, DAMWON Gaming from South Korea defeated opponent team Suning, from China, taking home the Summoner’s Cup and a share in a prize pool worth millions of dollars. It’s the third time the World Championship is won by a Korean team.
Besides the usual journals and websites dedicated to video games and eSports, all sports media and even most generalist media around the world reported from that event. A sign that eSports are growing – the League of Legends World Championship Finals featured 23.04 million average minute audience! – not only in the number of fans and participants, but also in the general awareness as sports in their full rights. While just six years ago, John Skipper (at the time president of ESPN and currently executive chairman at DAZN) said categorically that eSports were not real sports, today both channels devote a big chunk of coverage to them. All the more so this year, when people in lockdown or under other restrictive measures have been looking for more competitive events to watch on-line.
This is not to say that the pandemic didn’t affect eSports. At the beginning of October, games market analytics company Newzoo released their revised forecast, estimating…
Continue reading Games&Parks Industry December 2020, page 68
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