I’m Derrick Asiedu, and I’m the global events lead for Riot Games’ central esports team. Last year I was the event lead for Worlds 2017 in China.
First, an apology on our late timing in announcing dates, cities, and venues. Last year, we had all of the above announced as early as February, and here we are in August, only able to announce our dates and cities. For many of you who wanted to set aside time to travel for Worlds, announcing so late means you’ll need to scramble to set up travel plans or book time off. Additionally, 5 weeks spent in a foreign country to cover a single sporting event is a huge ask for any journalist, content creator, or community influencer, and the later we give information, the less flexibility you all have in booking flights, accommodations, and content scheduling, as well as securing external sponsorships.
Obviously this wasn’t our ideal timing either, so I wanted to explain how we got here, what we did wrong, and what we’ll do better for the future.
First, many of you have wondered why we don’t initiate negotiations or begin venue scouting earlier. For the past few years, we’ve had a fair degree of success and stability taking a one-year-ahead approach to venue scouting. For this company to stay lean, the same team that leads the technical production of Worlds is also the one best equipped to scout and evaluate future venues for esports events. In a typical year, we kick off scouting and venue negotiations immediately after Worlds to begin setting up the next one. This year was no different - we had already initiated dialogue with prospective venues by November 2017 to set up for Worlds 2018 in Korea.
So what happened?
To make things clear, none of the venues are to blame, and much of these delays were due to our desire to hold out for our top choice. As such, we’re going to have to speak a little vaguely about our reasons, as we don’t want to give any information that could pinpoint who we’re talking about. In short, however, we bet on a finals venue and it didn’t work out. Both the venue and us were interested in hosting the World Championship Finals, but there were a few variables that meant we had to wait a few more months before getting a firm commitment. In the meantime, we hedged our bets, went searching for a ‘plan B,’ and initiated conversations.
At this point, our preferred venue was unsure as to what dates they could sign to, which obviously had an impact on how we scheduled out the rest of the tournament. Through no fault of theirs, their timeline was being constantly extended and they couldn’t give a firm answer. Every week we’d come back together to see how much closer we were to confirming final dates, and every week we’d think we were just a bit closer. We weren’t.
A few months ago, we decided we couldn’t ‘wait and see’ for much longer, so we approached our plan B venue, and went into negotiations. Those negotiations fell through for other reasons, and we came into June with no finals venue secured for Worlds.
We would have liked to have informed all of you earlier, if just to let you know this was a priority for us and to maintain transparency as to where we were in the process. Unfortunately, revealing this kind of information also gives leverage to the venues we negotiate with - especially if they know we’re on a tight timeline. We opted to stay silent, and are once again sorry for all of the confusion.
Worth noting: we are confident we will find the right venue in Incheon, and are already working to solve this problem.
What are we doing to prevent this from happening again?
We’ll have more firm news on later in the year, but the short of it is we think we are now able to commit to a multi-year roadmap, complete with cities and venues. This has been a major undertaking for us, as it includes working with local governments and cities for full visibility, but it’s something we’re excited to lay down as concrete plans for the future.
Thank you all for your patience in this situation. Everything that could have gone wrong ended up going wrong, but at this point we’re excited with the venues we’ve found in Incheon. We expect this year’s Worlds to be one of the best yet. Stay tuned!