China to Have First Live Audience Esports Event Post-Covid

by in Entertainment | Aug, 7th 2020

China seems to be focusing their efforts to return to normalcy as they continue to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, as the country has just announced it’s first live esports event since the epidemic began.

According to Niko Partners analyst Daniel Ahmad, Tencent’s Honor of Kings Finals will have a live Stadium audience, a first since the pandemic struck the country in early 2020 and late 2019. Indeed, this is the first esports event to have a full audience since the pandemic spread west and sent the world plunging into economic and social chaos.

According to Ahmad, the restrictions on the event will include masks and temperature checks for all attendees. Of course, both of these methods will not guarantee that someone asymptomatic will not enter the venue, but forcing masks to be worn should severely limit how much the virus can spread, even at a sporting event. 

The Wukesong Arena has a 19,000 capacity and was originally built for the 2008 Summer Olympics. It’s a multipurpose indoor arena, and is also known as the Cadillac Center for sponsorship purposes. It’s played host to many concerts over the years, including Kanye West, Avril Lavigne, and others. It has also played host to multiple iterations of the NBA Global Games. 

Honor of Kings World Championships Proceeds as Planned

With the Beijing government now in agreement that they’ve largely defeated Covid-19, China will hold 3 major esports events in August. The Honor of Kings World Championships will be one of these events, held on the 16th of August at the Wukesong Arena in Beijing. This event was originally planned and announced back in February as part of the “Esports Beijing 2020 Series Events,” but was only very recently announced to be going ahead thanks to the virus subsiding in Beijing.

As of press time, the outbreak has left Beijing largely untouched with only 929 cases, and 881 of those cases recovered in the city. This is a small portion of China’s 84,565 cases total, which is a far cry and only a small portion of the nearly 19.2 million confirmed cases worldwide, despite the virus originating in China.

It’s worth pointing out that China could be severely underreporting their numbers to worldwide press, but there’s honestly no way to know that for sure. 

Could This Be a Test for League of Legends’ World Championship?

The 2020 League of Legends World Championship was announced to only be taking place in Shanghai, China this year due to the Coronavirus. It’s said that they will be employing a bubble system similar to that of the NBA for their event. However, now with Honor of Kings coming back, Riot could follow suit and allow fans to attend the event, which would obviously eliminate the “bubble” portion of the event. Players being kept in a bubble, but with spectators, could prove to be an interesting experiment in how the virus transmits, and whether Riot is able to keep their players healthy in such an environment. 

Given how Covid-19 has progressed in China, it’s entirely possible that this could be done with some precautions, but attendees could still be limited to local esports fans so as to prevent the virus from spreading from more virally active regions like the United States. 

This could be a very good look for Riot if they are able to pull it off as they will be the first major video game publisher to return to a sense of normalcy in esports. There are a lot of logistical hurdles for them to jump over, not the least of which is ensuring that players don’t violate their quarantine bubble and are following health and safety protocols. 

Valve and Activision Blizzard both have either delayed or moved their events online for The International and the 2020 Overwatch League Finals respectively. 

Coronavirus Leaves a Serious Mark on 2020 Esports

The novel coronavirus will leave a gigantic asterisk on any and all results from esports this year, regardless of when we actually return to live events. Most results have been shifted online which has led to some truly wacky results and questions about whether or not to take this year’s results seriously from both fans and analysts. 

The important thing is that the show continued. We didn’t completely shut down like traditional sports did, and we largely were able to do so without a serious interruption. Sure, many events in the fighting game community were delayed or cancelled but most tier one esports were able to resume play within weeks, not months upon months, and were able to fill the void for millions of fans around the world who were forced to hunker down and wait out the virus. 

That’s something that anyone in this industry can be proud of – that we entertained and lifted people’s spirits, even in the darkest of times.


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