Last month, just a week into the 2020 season, the Chinese League of Legends Pro League suspended play due to concerns surrounding the coronavirus outbreak. More than a month later, the league is finally set to resume — but it’s going to look very different.
On Friday the LPL announced that the season would resume on March 9th, but the league is understandably taking some precautions. To start, all players will be required to complete a 14-day monitored quarantine period and “meet all local health requirements” before they can participate.
The biggest change, however, is that matches will no longer be played in studios and arenas in front of fans. Instead, the LPL is shifting to an online format. Most teams will play based out of their local headquarters, with the exception of players who are in provinces under quarantine, and thus unable to leave. According to the LPL, this format will continue “until we can safely resume using the esports venues.” As the league notes, this will be the first time professional League of Legends matches will be played online instead of in a live in-person format.
The LPL is currently one of the top esports leagues in the world, with lucrative partnerships from companies like Nike and a glittering international win record; the previous two League world champions hail from China. It’s also far from the only esports league dealing with the fallout of the continued spread of the novel coronavirus.
The Overwatch League canceled several matches in China and later South Korea due to coronavirus concerns. Meanwhile, League of Legends Champions Korea, one of the world’s top leagues, is currently playing games in an empty studio in Seoul. On Thursday, the Masters Championship at IEM Katowice 2020, one of the premier Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournaments, announced that it was forced to close to the public by the Polish government. The tournament was set to take place in the 11,000-seat Spodek Arena.
For the LPL, Chinese broadcasts will resume on March 9th, while the league’s English-language channels on Twitch and YouTube will resume on March 15th. “There will likely be some unforeseen technical difficulties,” the league says, “but we will try our best to deal with them in a timely fashion.”