'League of Legends' World Championship moves from China to Europe due to COVID-19

Riot cited travel complications amid the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

Aly Song / reuters

Riot Games is changing its plans for the 2021 League of Legends World Championship (aka Worlds). The event was supposed to take place in China for the second straight year, but it's moving to Europe amid travel complications brought on by the rapid spread of the COVID-19 Delta variant.

"We've reached the point where it's extremely difficult to guarantee that qualifying teams and their best players would be able to attend Worlds this year," John Needham, Riot's global head of esports, said in a video. "After considering all possible options, we concluded that moving Worlds to Europe provided the best opportunity for the most teams and their best players to compete."

Worlds 2021 was supposed to take place in five cities across China, culminating in Shenzhen in November, after initially being announced for the US in 2018. Riot hasn't revealed exactly where in Europe it will bring one of the biggest events in esports this year, though Needham noted that accessibility for the highest number of teams and their key players will be the most critical factor. Riot will reveal more details about Worlds 2021 in the coming days and weeks.

Earlier this month, Riot moved the final matches of the League of Legends Championship Series (LCS) — the esport's North American league — from a New Jersey arena to its LCS Arena in Los Angeles. It said the rise in Delta variant cases meant that it "cannot in good conscience conduct a massive fan event at this time."

Other esports are still pressing forward with in-person events in North America. The 2021 Call of Duty League season just wrapped up, with its championship weekend being held at a packed Galen Center in Los Angeles. The Overwatch League playoffs and grand finals are set to take place in Dallas and the same LA arena respectively next month, marking the esport's return to in-person events in the US.