Electronic Sports League (ESL) is exploring the possibility of turning the upcoming ESL One Cologne into the first LAN event since the COVID-19 pandemic forced the competitive CS:GO scene to transition to online play.
ESL One Cologne was initially scheduled for July 6-12 but was officially postponed to August, weeks after the German government suspended all large events until the end of August due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In May, when ESL announced the postponement of ESL One Cologne, it was initially said that the competition would be held as a broadcasted tournament without a live audience, which suggested that one of the most heavily-anticipated CS:GO events will follow the footsteps of other competitions and move to an online format.
With August approaching and the coronavirus situation cooling down in Europe, ESL have started exploring options to host ESL One Cologne as a LAN event. As it stands now, ESL are split between two options: either split the tournament into separate regional divisions - similarly to how they approached hosting ESL Pro League Season 11, or host the entire event at a studio in Cologne from August 21-30.
Although the latter option is optimal, it remains to be seen whether the conditions will allow for ESL to host a proper LAN tournament. What's more, the company also needs to evaluate all the variables that need to be considered before hosting a global event.
Since many countries around the globe still have travel restrictions in place, players could have difficulties travelling to Germany, meaning that some CS:GO teams would be forced to skip the competition either due to travel restrictions of visa issues.
Despite all the concerns surrounding a potential LAN event, ESL have announced earlier last week that ESL Pro League Season 12, which is scheduled for September 12, will likely be held on LAN, suggesting ESL are working to end the era of online CS:GO.
Out of all esports tournament organisers, ESL was hit the hardest with the COVID-19 pandemic. Since February, when ESL had to host IEM Katowice playoffs without an on-site audience at Spodek Arena, the tournament organiser was also forced to make some drastic changes to Pro League Season 11.
Later in March, ESL announced that the ESL One Rio Major has been postponed to November, taking over the calendar slot of the second CS:GO Major. The schedule change not only means that 2020 will be the first time since 2013 there will be only one CS:GO Major in a calendar year, but also that ESL One Rio Major will feature an increased prize pool of US $2 million prize pool - a record for a single CS:GO esports tournament.
Although ESL One Cologne's transition back to LAN does not mean there will be any live audience at the "Cathedral of Counter-Strike", the change of format is still viewed as a huge positive for CS competitive scene since it will allow some of the strongest teams to finally display their full strength - something they were unable to do in the volatile online competitions.
At the start of April, ESL announced that qualifications for ESL One Cologne have been updated. In a bid to give every team a fair chance to qualify and compete at the event, ESL gave Europe, North America, Asia and Oceania regions slots in the Final 16 and Play-in stage, with teams competing for their spot in regional rankings.
ESL One Cologne regional spots distribution:
Europe - 6 teams
North America - 2 teams
Europe - 3 teams
North America - 3 teams
Asia - 1 team
Oceania - 1 team