Riot Reportedly Planning NBA-Style “Bubble-System” for Worlds 2020
While the coronavirus rages around the world, esports has been severely disrupted, especially in the form of in-person lans on an international level. League of Legends is no exception to this, with leagues around the world opting for online events based on their local level of control over the coronavirus. With many countries around the world not faring so well, Worlds 2020 was put in potential jeopardy yesterday by the Chinese government announcing a ban on international sports competition. Now, ESPN is reporting that Riot will employ a bubble system for LoL pros at Worlds 2020 similar to what the NBA is using in order to keep players safe.
No plans have been revealed at present what this would mean for a fan presence but it’s likely that fans would be prohibited from this, as they are in the NBA’s system.
“We are totally committed to delivering the biggest spectacle we’ve ever produced in China to celebrate our sport’s 10-year anniversary,” Riot said in a statement when they canceled MSI due to COVID-19 earlier this year. “While we must remain nimble with our plans, we are eager to celebrate everything that we love about LoL with a memorable Worlds 2020.”
What Is the Bubble System That Riot Plans to Use?
The NBA’s bubble system is one in which every single player and staff member in the NBA is under quarantine at a hotel in order to minimize the risk of players or staffers catching the coronavirus. This is a complete quarantine too – no running out for groceries or essentials, as these things would be delivered in a safe manner to players, including meals.
This could prove more advantageous for teams than the typical situation. As with all teams quarantined in the same facility, it could make it far easier to arrange scrim time and would eliminate the possibility of players being fatigued from travel. This could lead to far better performances than we’re used to seeing from teams that have to travel long distances to attend these events.
We might see far less content for Worlds 2020 from Riot, however, especially content that shows the players out and about around the city. This could make it a far more intimate experience for fans than the stadiums we’re sued to, which Riot might even play up for more of a Beyond the Summit-style experience.
The quarantine system also includes a lack of fans. This could be both good and bad for teams. While many have not dealt with audiences in quite some time due to the coronavirus, there are some teams that seem to thrive on the fan pressure and use their support as momentum to carry themselves further in the tournament than they might have otherwise. Without that, this will be a pure display of skill, focus, and playing in a controlled environment. The stress of being under constant quarantine could also get to the players, but perhaps no differently than if they were at home.
What Are the Potential Hurdles?
Potential hurdles exist in the bubble program that ESPN is reporting are the same as anyone else in the coronavirus hoping to minimize their risk: human error and behavior. It will be almost impossible for Riot to completely monitor every single team and player for 24 hours a day, so it will be up to teams to enforce the quarantine and almost an honor system that none of the players wish to get everyone else sick during such an important competition.
Other hurdles exist in that there are simply a lot of people involved in the 24 teams heading to LoL Worlds 2020, which may make doing the bubble difficult. That’s five players for each team, and their support staff (at least a coach and player manager). Using conservative math, that’s seven people per team, across 24 teams, not including League officials which would be 143 people. Easily enough to fill a small hotel, but with League support staff, operations, and casters, and you’re looking at Riot having to rent out a large hotel, easily. And that’s not even considering the hotel workers who don’t live there and are traveling home each day.
There’s also the LCS to consider. Why would our North American boys be an issue? One look at the U.S. coronavirus cases should answer that question quite neatly. The U.S. has added more than 60,000 new cases in the past few days, shattering any kind of record on the planet. This means that several countries have imposed travel bans on the U.S., including China, which has heavily restricted the entry of foreign nationals in general. With the US unlikely to get better any time soon, it seems unlikely that the People’s Republic of China would offer a waiver just for an esports event, especially with the ban on international sports events.
What Does This Mean for Worlds 2021?
Given that the coronavirus has completely derailed the original, traveling-circuit style of events that League of Legends Worlds is known for within China, Riot is said to be shifting the order of host countries back by one year. This means that Worlds would once again take place in China next year, but under the original plan, with this year running purely in Shanghai.
As a result of this, plans to host the League of Legends World Championship in North America would also be shifted back one year to 2022, with Korea shifted back to 2023. With North America being moved back, it would make an appropriate anniversary, however inadvertently – it will mark 10 years since the first large scale Worlds event, which took place in Los Angeles at the Galen Center, and nine years after Worlds sold out the Staples Center before taking the show on the road as the tournament has done ever since.
Should Riot go ahead with this bubble plan, it may end up saving LoL Worlds 2020, though with the pandemic it will be a very unique year, to say the least.