Blizzard have announced today that they’re cancelling all public Overwatch League Homestand events through the rest of March and April, in reaction to the increasing concerns and government actions being taken to combat the Covid-19 Coronavirus. However, Blizzard hope that matches can be safely organised and run close to the original schedule, perhaps taking them behind closed doors.
— Overwatch League (@overwatchleague) March 11, 2020
Though matches are still planned to go ahead, this is a pretty big blow for the Overwatch League’s third season. 2020 was the year that they finally realised their vision of having all matches be local events, known as Homestands, instead of at the Blizzard Arena in Los Angeles where the vast majority of the league was played in 2018 and 2019.
The intention is to find a way to still play matches as closely to the original schedule as possible, and one way to do that would be to have events take place behind closed doors, as many sporting events are now being played. The say:
Concurrently, we are working hand-in-hand with our teams to see that all matches are played when it’s safe and logistically feasible, staying as close to our originally planned schedule as possible. We are considering the various options available to esports in this effort, so that all teams – including those previously impacted by scheduling changes in China – can get back to doing what they do best.
The Overwatch League was already hit by Covid-19 as it sent shockwaves through China and South Korea back in February. In response to the quarantines imposed by the Chinese government, Blizzard were forced to cancel the matches planned to take place in that region, but was able to continue playing matches in the Eastern Conference that featured teams from the eastern side of America and Europe. Still, it’s led to a pretty lopsided season so far, with some teams having played half a dozen times, others just once or twice, and half the league not having played at all.
Then again, they’re far from the only ones being affected. Numerous other sporting events and leagues are being rearranged, cancelled or played behind closed doors. Italy’s Serie A might not be concluded this year, the NBA has been called to a halt as one of its players was diagnosed with the virus, and there’s big question marks about the viability of Formula 1, which is stubbornly going ahead with its opening race in Australia this weekend.
Dozens of conferences mass gatherings have also been called off, including E3 2020, which was officially cancelled yesterday after weeks of speculation. Companies like Microsoft and Ubisoft have already announced their plans to shift to a “digital experience”.