Singapore Major, eSports' first offline event of 2021, promises to set the ball rolling in post-COVID world

Anand Krishnaswamy
·3-min read

Despite the global pandemic, year 2020 saw a growth in online gaming and eSports because of the latter's inherent advantage of being able to operate through the internet. Fans and players alike are able to take part from the comfort of their homes.

Within this industry, one of the most cash-rich eSports has been Dota 2. Recently, the first offline event for Dota 2 was announced. The Singapore Major is all set to take place between 27 March and 4 April 2021. This event will feature a prize pool of $500,000, of which the winning team will receive $200,000. This is the first offline Dota 2 tournament since March 2020. The last offline event for Dota 2 was the Los Angeles Major that was postponed midway due to the pandemic.

The decision to hold the tournament amid the COVID situation is sure to raise a few eyebrows. The major things that need to be considered are, how prepared are we to have a tournament today? How will the success/failure of this tournament affect eSports as a whole?

The first question is tricky, and the best solution would be to borrow a leaf from traditional sports. Regular sports and eSports share similarities in terms of hosting the events. As of today, most popular sports have resumed action with measures to ensure the events do not aid the spread of the infection. Some of the most common measures include spectator-free events and setting up a bio-bubble for people involved with the event.

The other big issue with hosting offline events is the need to work around travel regulations. Taking an example of just Dota 2 and the Dota Pro Circuit (DPC), there were incidents of casters and analysts who were required to travel for work being unable to enter some European countries and hence being forced to fly back and work from their homes instead.

How the event works around these two major worry factors is hard to say. While it is possible to take safety measures to inhibit the spread of COVID-19, the issue related to travel restrictions is the bigger concern. There may be incidents related to athletes or casters who are unable to make it to the event and it remains to be seen how the incidents will be handled.

How the decision to hold the Singapore Major as an offline event will affect eSports is harder to answer. There are many unknowns, and as such, it is hard to predict the effects on the industry. What is certain though is that the Singapore Major will be followed closely and will serve as a test for other eSports events that are planned later in the year. The organisation behind the Singapore Major, PGL, are also planning to host their first Counter-Strike:Global Offensive (CS:GO) tournament in two years. This CS:GO event is planned towards the end of 2021 (23 October to 7 November) and will feature a massive $2 million prize pool.

Some of the big events that are expected for 2021 include Dota 2's The International 10 (which was postponed indefinitely due to pandemic), League of Legend World Championships, ESL Pro Tour 2020/21 StarCraft II and EVO Champions 2021. Things certainly are beginning to look up for the eSports industry as far as the scope of offline events goes, but their viability and efficacy in times of corona are yet to be ascertained.

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