Esports Arena: Coronavirus Postpones Competition in China; 'Call of Duty' League Debuts to Big Numbers

Call of Duty League - publicity - H 2020
Courtesy of Call of Duty League

Elsewhere in competitive gaming: Nearly 40 percent of 'Smash Bros. Ultimate' entrants don't show for EVO 2020 following top prize controversy; 'Apex Legends' pulls the rug out on new character announcement; NFL stars team with top gamers for 'Fortnite' charity tournament on Twitch.

Esports Arena is a curated weekly roundup of the biggest stories in the world of online competitive gaming.

The League of Legends Pro League (LPL), the top LoL league in China, has announced it will be postponing its second week of competition due to the growing coronavirus outbreak in the country. The LPL made the official announcement via Twitter, saying, “We have decided to postpone week 2 of the LPL until we can ensure the safety and health of our players and fans.”

The coronavirus has now spread to over 4,500 cases across the world, with the death toll now over 100.

Week two of the LPL was scheduled to take place Feb. 5, with Team WE taking on Royal Never Give Up and Invictus Gaming facing off against OMG. The league has made no announcement regarding the rescheduling of these matches. 

Elsewhere, the Call of Duty League named YouTube as its official streaming partner as part of a larger deal that will see all of Activision Blizzard's esports roster — including the 2020 Overwatch League season and the next Hearthstone esports circuit — moving to the Google-owned video platform as well. The first weekend of the Call of Duty League proved to be successful on its new home at YouTube, with peak viewership reaching over 100,000 concurrent viewers during the Chicago Huntsmen and Los Angeles Optic Gaming match Sunday. Week two of the Call of Duty League will commence from London on Feb. 8. 

Here’s what else is happening in the world of esports.

100 Thieves Create New Program to Develop Young Talent

North American League of Legends team 100 Thieves has unveiled the creation of the 100 Thieves Next program, which will train young LoL talent and prepare them for the main competition circuit. A video was shared on the official 100 Thieves Twitter account detailing the new initiative, while also welcoming its inaugural students: Osama “Auto”  Alkhalaileh, Jouhan “Copy” Pathmanathan, Shane “kenv” Espinoza, Milan "Tenacity" Oleksij and Philippe “Poome” Lavoie-Giguere. 100 Thieves has not yet announced when the program’s first entrants will compete, but the professional team’s next match is set for Feb. 1.

Almost 40 Percent of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate Entrants at EVO Japan 2020 Didn't Show

EVO Japan 2020 was positioned to have the largest Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament since EVO 2019, but nearly 40 percent of registered players did not show for the event. Smash Bros. Ultimate led EVO Japan’s enrollment with nearly 3,000 competitors, but when the tournament kicked off this past weekend only 1,819 players actually showed, with 1,169 entrants not reporting to their matches. The result was a field of 256 competitors, where some players had first round byes.The final match saw Shuto “Shuton” Moriya’s Olimar defeat Seisuke “Kome” Komeda’s Shulk in the Grand Finals, allowing Moriya to take home the controversial top prize of a special Nintendo Switch Pro Controller.

Apex Legends Introduces New Hero, Then Promptly Kills Him Off

Respawn has pulled a fast one on its fan base with a surprise reveal during a brief video vignette called “Stories From the Outlands.” The video shows the recently released new hero James “The Forge” McCormick being interviewed in a studio before he is killed by a mystery assailant at the end of the short. That attacker is Revenant, the actual next character to enter Apex Legends, bringing a heavy fan favorite into the fray. No further information was shared, but Revenant will seemingly be part of Apex Legends’ season four content, which launches Feb. 4.

Twitch to Host Fortnite Charity Tournament With NFL Players

Super Bowl LIV will put an end to the current NFL season this Sunday and Twitch is getting in on the fun with Twitch Rivals Streamer Bowl featuring various NFL stars. Juju Smith-Schuster of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Keenan Allen of the San Diego Chargers and Mike Evans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are among the 16 NFL players who will pair up with 16 professional gamers, including Benjamin “DrLupo” Lupo and Timothy “TimTheTatman” Betar, in a Fortnite tournament that will be streamed on the Twitch Rivals channel. The 16 teams will compete for a $500,000 donation to the charity of their choice.