The Overwatch League’s plans for a truly global e-sports league have taken a major hit. Today, Blizzard announced that the China-based games taking place in February and March planned for the 2020 season have been canceled following the outbreak of the coronavirus. In a statement posted this evening to Twitter, the league explained that the decision was made to “protect the health and safety of our players, fans, and staff.”
“We hope fans have a safe and happy Lunar New Year, and we remain incredibly excited to play Overwatch League matches in China later this season,” the statement reads. “We’ll share more information about when and where the matches will take place at a later date.”
The 2020 season of OWL was set to be the first in league history where each of the 20 teams hosted matches out of their home cities. The league features teams based in Asia, Europe, and North America, and there are currently four Chinese clubs — Shanghai, Chengdu, Hangzhou, and Guangzhou — each of which was expected to host at least two events. The first was slated for the second week of the season, starting February 15th in Shanghai.
Prior to today’s news, most of the teams released their own statements outlining their plans for dealing with the outbreak. Both the Guangzhou Charge and Shanghai Dragons, for instance, moved their preseason operations to South Korea for safety reasons. The Overwatch League regular season is slated to kick off February 8th with games in both Dallas and New York.
OWL isn’t the only e-sports league dealing with the fallout from the coronavirus. The League of Legends Pro League — arguably the biggest professional gaming circuit in the world — recently announced that it would postpone the competition “until we can ensure the safety and health of our players and fans.”