The Overwatch League has just started its third competitive season, only to come to an unexpected halt. Activision Blizzard have announced that all Overwatch League events in both March and April have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a statement released to the public, an OWL representative wrote that “The health and safety of employees, fans, players, teams, and partners is paramount to Activision Blizzard Esports. [...] We are working hand-in-hand with our teams to see that all matches are played when its safe and logistically feasible, staying as close to our originally planned schedule as possible.”
A total of eleven homestand events are canceled; some of these events had already been delayed by the organizers, including a game hosted in France by the Paris Eternal. This follows disrupted matches in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou, which were moved to Seoul. Now, all matches are off the board, although Activision Blizzard states that they are considering “the various options available to esports.”
This was meant to be the global debut of the Overwatch League’s home and away system, which would have had teams travel around the globe to compete in host cities. With the current concerns around the spread of coronavirus, shuttling players back and forth on planes is a serious risk. Cities including San Fransisco and Paris had also issued bans on bringing together large crowds of people for an event.
League officials will share “additional updates as needed”, and Activision Blizzard currently plans to make up the disrupted matches before the end of the season. In a tweet, CEO of Activision Blizzard Esports Pete Vlastelica wrote that “we WILL be playing matches in March and April. We cancelled the events, not the matches”.
To be clear, we WILL be playing matches in March and April. We cancelled the events, not the matches (though we will have to move a few things around in the schedule to make this work). https://t.co/guxoTWLhMk— Pete Vlastelica (@PeteVlastelica) March 11, 2020
The new schedule has yet to be announced, but the matches will likely be held online and, as usual, streamed on YouTube.