The Overwatch League is going on hiatus amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. Today, Blizzard announced that the league was canceling all events scheduled for March and April. The league says it’s still working on determining when and where those games will be made up in the future.
“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,” the league said in a statement. “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.”
“We discussed every possible scenario.”
The canceled games include matches scheduled for Florida, Toronto, San Francisco, Atlanta, London, Dallas, Washington, Boston, and Paris. “We discussed every possible scenario, along with all preventative measures we could take to save this event,” the San Francisco Shock said in a statement. “In the end, player safety and the health of our fans are paramount and unless we were convinced that we could ensure both, we couldn’t in good conscience go forward with the weekend event.”
The league had previously canceled all games set to take place in China and eventually moved them to South Korea before subsequently canceling those as well. The timing is particularly difficult for OWL, which spent its first two years of existence based in LA before shifting to a city-based format for the 2020 season. Prior to today’s hiatus, a number of teams in the league — particularly those based in Asia — had barely played any matches this season. Some have yet to play at all.
It’s not clear whether the Call of Duty League, which is also operated by Activision Blizzard and features a similar city-based structure, will be impacted as well. “Call of Duty League scheduling considerations are being addressed, as well, and we will share more updates as soon as possible,” the league said in a statement.
Blizzard hasn’t yet said what form the games will eventually take, though other esports leagues have tried different formats. In League of Legends, China’s LPL has shifted to an online structure without a live, in-person element, while the LCK in South Korea has featured games played in an empty arena. In a statement on Twitter, Activision Blizzard Esports CEO Pete Vlastelica confirmed that the games would still be played in some form.
“To be clear, we will be playing matches in March and April,” he said. “We canceled the events, not the matches (though we will have to move a few things around in the schedule to make this work).”
Update March 11th, 4:22PM ET: Added statement from Pete Vlastelica.