Avoiding the pandemic AFK: Esports wrap-up in 2020

Damwon Gaming took their first LOL Worlds crown in 2020. LOL Esports (file photo)

By Drew Malihan

MANILA--Another year has passed for the esports scene, and we can say that this is no ordinary year for the players and fans alike.

For the first time in years, people are now prohibited to cram in public areas in large numbers, something that esports and the tournaments are used to, from League of Legends and Dota 2 to Call of Duty and Counter-Strike and everything in between.

Tournaments were either rescheduled in remote or conducted online with teams streaming themselves from their bootcamp, or not to be held at all.

To the news of nobody, Dota 2’s 10th iteration of the International was even cancelled and eventually rescheduled to 2021 in Stockholm.

Several events of other esports labels such as Arena of Valor, Tekken, and Fortnite to anme a few cancelling their own world championships or major tournaments.

However, 2020 is also full of new beginnings and hopes for the scene. Several games and tournaments were pushed through, new games were introduced, and fans were dished out with matches and moments that 2020 brought, PC, console, and mobile gaming alike.

Here is our quick rundown on what happened to esports in the past twelve months.

You can’t spell 'parties' without TI

Yes. For the first time in its history, The International is cancelled.

Following the announcement of the coronavirus pandemic and the suspension of the NBA on live TV, Dota began to suspend all its upcoming tournaments for the next three months, including various major and minor TI-tied qualifying events under the 2019-20 Dota Pro Circuit, leaving only two majors and three minors concluded for the said season.

First of the three minors is the Dota Summit 11 in Los Angeles, which Invictus won over Chaos Esports, then the We Play! Bukovel Minor in Ukraine in which Nigma get their first trophy under the new organization formed by Team Liquid’s TI 2019 roster. The last of which was StarLadder ImbaTV Dota 2 Minor Season 3 in March, a few days before the suspension of the events, which Team Aster triumphs over Alliance.

Team Secret was the lone winner of a major in 2020, winning the 13th season of DreamLeague in late January over Evil Geniuses, joining TNC Predator as major winners in the 2019-20 DPC.

Events such as ESL One Los Angeles and ONE Esports SIngapore Major were among the DPC Circuit tournaments cancelled, while others from Parimatch League to Huya Winter International were held online, with Valve yet to announce the tournaments eligible for the upcoming DPC.

Both Fnatic and TNC Predator have enjoyed success this year in the pro scene for 2020, with Fnatic taking five straight titles in Tier 2 tournaments including Dota Sumit 12, two ESL One SEA tournaments, World E-sports Legendary League, and the first season of BTS Pro Series, and a second-place finish in the ONE Esports Dota 2 SEA League. TNC, although finishing mostly mid-table has won an ESL One tournament and the fourth season if BTS Pro Series, even with March leaving the team.

Fun fact, if TI10 happened, both TNC and Fnatic will get direct invites due to having enough DPC points, while teams such as Adroit, Geek Fam, Reality Rift, and Boom Esports dealing it out in the qualifiers.

LOL holds on for Worlds

Unlike their Valve rivals, Riot Games has League of Legends going from the get go, as all premier LOL tournaments and leagues were held across various regions of the LOL community.

As all of their qualifying tournaments leading to the Worlds 2020 was either not affected or rescheduled, LOL held on and proceed to business as usual, albeit no fans were allowed until the finals of LOL Worlds.

China’s LPL, the Europena LEC, South Korean LCK, North American LCS, and the Pacific Region’s PCS regional tournaments were held to determine all the the direct invites and four of ten play-in spots, while six other regions determine their league winners for the play-in spots.

However, qualifiers from the Vietnam Championship Series, namely Team Flash and GAM Esports, were unable to participate due to strict border controls and travel restrictions in Vietnam, prompting a reshuffle in the direct qualified teams with Gen.G getting Team Flash’s spot. The PCS were also established following the merger of the stronger LMS of Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macau and the relatively weaker LST of Southeast Asia, reducing their Worlds spots from four to two in the process.

It was LPL regional finals winners Suning and LCK Summer champs Damwon Gaming who faced in the grand final at the Pudong Stadium in Shanghai with live attendance of more than 6,000, around a fifth of the stadium’s full capacity. Damwon won the title in four games, getting their first world title and jinxing a three-peat of LPL by getting LCK’s fifth trophy.

MLBB stayed put

With no attendance from March onwards the MLBB pro scene remains alive and kicking across various regional level tournaments, with all major ML strongholds holding two seasons of the MPL as well as two MPL Iinvitationals and various M2 qualifiers.

Although the M2 World Championships were rescheduled in 2021, qualifiers in Brazil and Russia were still held while Japan and Cambodia rather handpicked their representatives due to restrictions. Teams such as DreamMax, Deus Vult, 10Seconds Gaming Frost, and Impunity were able to secure their slots.

RRQ enjoyed a big year as they bagged three championships in their name, as they dominated MPL Indonesia Season 5 and defeated archnemesis EVOS Legends in the finals in a five-game thriller, took home the ONE Esports MPL Invitational 4 Nations Cup in quick fashion against Resurgence, and bagged the MPL Indonesia Season 6 crown after a classic series with Alter Ego including a 40-minute nailbiter.

Speaking of Alter Ego, they redeemed themselves by sweeping the ONE Esports MPL Invitational, which has now all five regions with Philippines joining, remaining undefeated in four series before dealing a quick 3-0 sweep of Bren Esports in the finals while coming from the first round of the play-in stage.

Bren Esports and Aura PH were also big winners for the year as the former took two trophies in their name with the MPL-Philippines Season 6 crown and The Nationals MLBB Championship, both against a formidable Omega Esports, while Aura take the MPL-PH Season 5 crown after toppling rivals ONIC PH.

Todak meanwhile reclaim their MPL-MYSG glory after being down to EVOS SG in Season 5 by grabbing the season 6 crown without losing a series, as Burmese Ghouls continue to dominate the Myanmar region by taking their fourth overall crown in the MPL-Myanmar.

Four-game uprising

Along with the staples in Philippine esports scene such as Dota, LOL, MLBB, Tekken, and even PUBG and COD Mobile, four new games invade the scene with ease and captured the hearts of pros and enthusiasts alike.

Valorant, a first-person hero shooter game by Riot for Windows, took PC gaming by storm in June 2, 2012 with 1.7 million viewers watching Valorant on Twitch on the first day of its beta launch, and was even compared to CS:GO and Overwatch for similarities in objectives and game styles.

Players will be able to select agents with different abilities and based on various cultures, and can be armed with guns and pistols along with their signature ability. Teams from the attacking side will plant a bomb for the defender to attempt to detonate it, and failure of doing the said objective will result to points to the opposing team along with eliminating the enemy team.

Genshin Impact revived the seemingly inactive RPG world and take the esports community to its fantasy open world. The game will take the player to Teyvat world with seven nations ruled by a god of a certain element. The main subject is the Traveller searching for a long-lost twin separated by a Teyvat god, prompting the Traveller to roam the world and be involved in the affairs of gods and nations.

Similar to other RPG games, a player can switch to other characters present in the party even during combat. Various challenges are also present in the game with rewards in variety. Players can even play together in fours and unlock other characters other than the four in-game characters by a gacha mechanic.

The MOBA scene welcomed the seventh member of the mobile MOBA scene with League of Legends: Wild Rift.

It is a faster version of the popular parent game LOL with matches running from 15-20 minutes a game.

Similar to other MOBAs, the main objective Is to destroy the enemy base and its turrets while avoiding the base to be destroyed by the enemy.

Riot Games’ new mobile game targeted the markets in which Arena of Valor and Mobile Legends: Bang Bang were strong, including the SEA region, the former a game by their parent company Tencent after Riot reportedly claimed that such game as LOL cannot be translated into a mobile version.

Despite being a 2018 release, Among Us became a huge hit in 2020 after various Twitch and YouTube streamers dived themselves in the game, from renowned YouTube star PewDiePie and NBA 2K content creator Troydan to pro teams in other esports organizations.

The simplicity of the game captured the hearts of many, with crewmates in space dealing with tasks and eliminating the impostor, while the impostor or two will eliminate all the other crewmates while being unsuspected. Eliminations are done with a plurality vote.

2020 may be a challenging year for the esports scene, but with organizations and teams adapting to the normality of the pandemic scene, 2021 is still a hopeful year for players and fans. May 2021 be filled with epic clashes, more classic moments, and more games to played, with less lags of course.

Follow him on Twitter: @drewmalihan