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More esports events have been canceled over coronavirus concerns

A Mortal Kombat event was pulled the day before it began

The former Johnny Cage sulks away from his current self in Mortal Kombat 11 Image: NetherRealm Studios/Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment
Nicole Carpenter is a senior reporter specializing in investigative features about labor issues in the game industry, as well as the business and culture of games.

The number of esports events canceled over the spread of the novel coronavirus continues to grow. On Friday afternoon, NetherRealm Studios announced it had canceled its Last Chance Qualifier event scheduled for Saturday, and would only permit its top 16 Mortal Kombat 11 players to compete in the Final Kombat 2020 event on Sunday. (It’ll still be livestreamed.) Ticket holders will no longer be able to attend the event.

Elsewhere in the industry, Electronic Arts has also canceled multiple esports events for Apex Legends and FIFA 20. This comes after League of Legends developer Riot Games issued new rules for its events — including the prohibition of handshakes and high-fives — on Friday morning.

The Mortal Kombat 11 event was scheduled to begin March 7 in Illinois. Many attendees have already traveled to the event from all over the world. However, the company hosting the event intends to reimburse nonrefundable travel and accommodation costs, and refund tickets to the event. Immediately after the announcements, fans were nervous about the money they’d lose following the event’s cancellation. Reimbursements beyond just tickets are a relief for many.

Polygon has reached out for more information on the refund process.

Players have been competing “for almost a year in Mortal Kombat 11 all for the end goal of making it to the finals,” Tasman “Waz” Stoker, an Australian Mortal Kombat 11 pro player who’s already in Chicago for the event, told Polygon. “If you didn’t qualify, the tournament this weekend was the only chance you had left to get a shot at being the best.”

Likewise, multiple Apex Legends and FIFA 20 events have been affected. Here’s the full list from EA:

Apex Legends Global Series

- Major | Arlington | March 13-15 | Postponed

EA Sports FIFA 20 Global Series

- CONMEBOL eLibertadores Online & Live Event | Postponed

- FUT Champions Cup Stage V | Bucharest | April 3 - 5 | Cancelled

- PlayStation Licensed Qualifying Event | May 2 - 3 | Cancelled

“These decisions haven’t come easy, but given the large, global nature of these events, we believe that making these changes are in the best interest of protecting the health of the community, including competitors, attendees and staff,” an EA representative said in a statement.

The Mortal Kombat 11 and EA cancellations come after League of Legends developer Riot Games issued some restrictions on behavior at its League of Legends Championship Series finals scheduled to be held in Frisco, Texas, in April: no fan meets, high-fives, or postgame handshakes. Ticket holders who no longer wish to attend the event can get refunds now. Riot Games said it’s “carefully monitoring the situation” as the event approaches.

On Thursday, developer Psyonix canceled its Rocket League Season 9 World Championship event scheduled to be held April 24-26 in Dallas. “We understand that this is frustrating, but health and safety will always be our top priority,” Psyonix wrote in a statement. It’s also adjusting its weekly matches to protect its players and staff — all matches will be played online, with no broadcast talent in-studio.

These events are not alone; many more — including the Game Developers Conference, SXSW, and Mobile World Congress — have been canceled or postponed as COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus, spreads globally.

More than 100,000 COVID-19 cases have been reported worldwide, with major outbreaks in China, Italy, South Korea, and Iran. There are more than 250 cases in the United States, with most concentrated in California and Washington state. The Centers for Disease Control suggests the risk for most Americans is “low” at this time.

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