2020 was meant to be a breakout year for Overwatch League: the first year in which all teams would play events in their home cities. The Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak has taken a toll on that plan, however, with League action in China and South Korea shut down, and a decision earlier today by the Paris Eternal to cancel a homestand event planned for April.
Unsurprisingly, the Overwatch League has now announced that all live events planned for March and April are cancelled.
"The health and safety of employees, fans, players, teams, and partners is paramount to Activision Blizzard Esports. We are continuing to closely monitor COVID-19 (coronavirus), city-level recommendations and mandates, and all guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention," the league said in a statement. "After careful review and working in close collaboration with our teams, we are canceling all Overwatch League events scheduled for March and April."
"To be clear, we WILL be playing matches in March and April," clarified Activision Blizzard esports CEO Pete Vlastelica on Twitter. "We cancelled the events, not the matches (though we will have to move a few things around in the schedule to make this work)." He also confirmed that all matches will be broadcast.
An announcement about our April 18-19 Homestand: pic.twitter.com/dIQaHjRV6TMarch 11, 2020
The Overwatch League is one of the first esports leagues to be modeled after conventional sports, with city-based teams and home-and-away schedules, and the decision to cancel live events is reflected in conventional sports competitions. Europa League soccer games are being played behind closed doors or cancelled outright, NCAA championship events will be played with only "essential staff and limited family" in attendance, and the NBA is reportedly considering moving games or even suspending operations outright, although ESPN says those decision are hampered by the fact that "there is no full understanding of how widespread and debilitating the virus could become" in the US. The World Figure Skating Championships, scheduled for March 18-22 in Montreal, were also cancelled today.
There will likely be more to come, on both the conventional and esports fronts. Just prior to the Overwatch League cancellations, ESL announced that its Pro League Season 11, including finals, will be played entirely online.
Details on specific Overwatch League events will be provided by individual teams. Right now, there are no changes to Overwatch League events beyond the end of April.
You can follow our coverage of all industry-related coronavirus updates here. For more information on the Covid-19 coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control for updates in North America, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, or the World Health Organization.