Esports IndustryFeature

The coronavirus impact on esports leagues worldwide

The coronavirus impact on esports is growing day by day. More COVID-19 cases are being reported and the outbreak has caused deep concerns worldwide, affecting different communities and sectors differently.

As a result, several esports titles and events have had to take precautionary measures to protect fans and players. Here’s a look at the coronavirus impact on esports titles worldwide.

Overwatch League: Cancelled games and homestands

Overwatch has been one of the titles hit hardest by the coronavirus impact on esports. Year three of the Overwatch League was set to be a breakout year for the game’s competitive scene. It would have offered fans a chance to cheer on their favorite squads with homestand events in each home city. Unfortunately, the coronavirus outbreak has brought several of those plans to a screeching halt.

OWL has several Asian teams: the Chengdu Hunters, the Guangzhou Charge, the Hangzhou Spark, the Seoul Dynasty and the Shanghai Dragons. With the disease spreading rapidly, Blizzard was forced to cancel all matches in China for February and March due to health and safety concerns. The missing games were to be played out during Weeks 5, 6 and 7 in Seoul, South Korea. The league was further forced to axe those plans and the long anticipated Seoul Dynasty homestand as the virus spread to South Korea.

Uncertainty for Pacific teams in OWL’s biggest year

The cancellations mean Pacific Division teams have only played a single weekend this season. Currently, all matches for those teams are cancelled until the last week of March. The league has not yet confirmed a new schedule for Pacific teams. Players and orgs who were in China and South Korea for matches have already started leaving Asia. However, visa issues could mean players without entry to the U.S. may be unable to participate in future matches.

With the widespread outbreak in Italy, the Paris Eternal and London Spitfire homestands could face cancellation as well. While the London and Paris matches aren’t until late March and mid-April respectively,  the league may have to change gears quickly. Overall, Overwatch League’s big shift to global LAN events is under a lot of pressure. The league will need to adapt fast to ensure it won’t lose Pacific fans’ attention as games continue to be cancelled.

League of Legends: Cancelled and rescheduled games

As the largest esport title globally, League of Legends was quick to respond to the coronavirus. The LPL, League’s Chinese pro scene, originally chose to postpone all games. The league has now issued a statement saying that LPL games will resume as of March 9, but will not be held on LAN. Instead, teams will play online together at their org houses. They’ll also be required to be medically cleared after a 14 day quarantine before they are eligible to play.

Several other Asian leagues have been forced to postpone or play empty venues until further notice. Leagues in regions like North America that have not seen as severe outbreaks are allowing players to refuse post game handshakes and meetups. As well, LoL esports may delay the announcement of the 2020 Mid-Season Invitational details until the global situation is more clear.

One of the biggest future concerns for Riot Games will be ensuring that Worlds 2020 will still run. Shanghai, China was tapped as host for the biggest tournament in LoL esports. The event is still months away however, and Chinese officials have declared that Worlds preparation is a go. Moving the event may be a possibility should the coronavirus impact on esports worldwide continue. A potential venue change may be required if the outbreak in China is not under control by Autumn.

Empty arenas and uncertainty for Counter Strike: Global Offensive

Intel Extreme Masters Katowice is one of the most electric CS:GO tournaments of the year, outside the Majors. On the eve of the event opening, Polish officials declared that the tournament could continue, however no one would be allowed to attend the matches. ESL refunded fans who had made the trek to Katowice only to be denied entry. The eerily silent arena made for a disappointing atmosphere for a tournament full of fantastic matches. When Natus Vincere lifted the trophy after dominating G2 Esports, the only cheers heard were from cast and crew.

The World Electronic Sports Games was forced to postpone the APAC final for the WESG 2020 tourney. WESG is one of the largest Chinese esports events for CS:GO and CS:GO Female. The WESG World finals are now also delayed, further impacting the Dota 2, Starcraft 2 and Pro Evolution Soccer scenes.

The Katowice decision came despite no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Poland. The decision to close the Spodek Arena to fans could see other LANs close doors on fans as a preventative measure. While it’s unfortunate, the concern for public health and safety is well justified. With several large events such as the Rio Major coming soon, tournament organizers may need to choose between hosting events or protecting their fans.

Further coronavirus impact on esports expected

Esports events and leagues will have to adjust to ensure player, fan and staff safety as new cases are confirmed. Several other esports titles have had to change plans, including Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds, CrossFire and Dota 2.

The inability to host events for the foreseeable future could tank the growth of esports and esports events in China. Plans for LAN events across the globe could come to a halt if the disease spreads further. 2020 could be a famine year for esports events, players, teams and game scenes.

Stay tuned to SQUAD for more info on the coronavirus impact on esports as the disease continues to spread.

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Matthew Murray

Matthew Murray is a Canadian writer, journalist and public relations specialist. PC gamer, fan of FPS and RPGs. Follower of several esports titles including Rainbow 6, Overwatch and CS:GO. Every software or game he touches will magically have inexplicable issues somehow.
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