Amid a spectacle staged during the Golden State Warriors versus Toronto Raptors game on November 21, Riot Games’ new esports president John Needham sent League of Legends T-shirts parachuting down onto a packed stadium of sports fans while a cinematic trailer announced the return of one of the world’s largest esports tournaments to North America.
It was the culmination of a day when dozens of the global press were gathered to tour the state-of-the-art Chase Center in San Francisco, the venue where the 2022 League of Legends World Championship finals will be held next November.
“We haven’t been in North America with major international events since 2016 and haven’t been able to come back the past few years due to travel restrictions around COVID,” Needham told TechCrunch. “We’re just very excited to be doing live events again and want fans to know that they can expect a thrilling production the likes of the Super Bowl halftime show.”
It’s been more than a decade since Riot held its first World Championships in 2011, known as Worlds. The multiplayer online battle game boasts more than 180 million monthly active players and 10 franchise League of Legends teams, each with NBA ownership ties. NBA all stars like Steph Curry, Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson are team investors, along with others from the Golden State Warriors, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Memphis Grizzlies, New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, Washington Wizards and Charlotte Hornets.