Riot Games’ global head of esports John Needham has hinted in a Worlds 2020 press conference that the Mid-Season Invitational tournament could return for 2021 after being scrapped this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Taking questions from the media alongside Riot CEO Nicolo Laurent and head of Riot China Leo Lin, the panel was asked by Korizon’s Ashley Kang whether there was any update on MSI returning next year. Needham responds with a vague but encouraging answer that claims fans will get some kind of MSI update in early 2021.
“One of the first things we’re going to tackle after Worlds this year is figuring out how we’re going to deliver on MSI,” Needham says. “I think we have a number of exciting and innovative ideas on how we’re going to do that, and we should be able to share those early next year. But there’s nothing to report right now.”
While we’ve got nothing concrete to go on just yet, Riot’s ability and perseverance to host Worlds on LAN, and even have a live audience of 6,000 for the final, means that MSI 2021 is a very feasible possibility.
Prior to the media’s questions, an opening statement from Nicolo Laurent saw him thank Shanghai for being the only place “on the planet right now we could’ve hosted Worlds” before dubbing it the “esports capital” of the world. Don’t be surprised to see Shanghai utilised as a host city again, especially if the pandemic continues to restrict operations deep into next year.
Shanghai’s eagerness to host international esports events has been clear, with the city offering itself to Dota 2 developers Valve as a host for its postponed The International 10. While Valve turned down that offer, the intent is clear, and Worlds has proved the capability is there too.
The press conference also saw questions fielded about Saturday’s opening ceremony for the final, where one of DAMWON Gaming or Suning will be crowned a new world champion.
Laurent claims that he wants to “positively” shock the world with what Riot can achieve in the Pudong Football Stadium and says “over 200 performers” will feature in the ceremony.
“I think people are going to be surprised to see a stadium filled with passion and an opening ceremony with over 200 performers,” Laurent says. “I think when the rest of the world is still struggling with the pandemic and when Europe is shutting down [again], I think that’s going to shock – in a positive way – the world.”
Laurent also says he sees Worlds opening ceremonies as an arena for Riot to push the entire entertainment industry forward and is one of the only opportunities it gets to pull music, art, sports, and all entertainment forms into one moment.
This year’s ceremony will likely showcase a lot of the real-time AR technology we’ve seen throughout the tournament so far. It’s also confirmed League of Legends band K/DA, who dropped a new track yesterday, will be making an appearance.