Overwatch League Cancels All Events in March and April Amid Coronavirus Concerns

Overwatch League Grand Finals - Day 2 at Barclays Center on July 28, 2018 - Getty -H 2019
Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Blizzard Entertainment

"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 esports league said Wednesday in a statement.

The Overwatch League has canceled all events scheduled for March and April amid concerns over the coronavirus pandemic.

"The health and safety of employees, fans, players, teams and partners is paramount to Activision Blizzard Esports," the league announced Wednesday. "We are continuing to closely monitor COVID-19 (coronavirus), city-level recommendations and mandates, and all guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention."

The news comes amid a number of other cancellations and postponements amid esports, including the cancellation of one of the largest fighting game tournaments in the U.S., the NorCal Regionals, originally scheduled to take place April 10-12 in San Jose, California, and Riot Games rescheduling the Mid-Season Invitational tournament for its League of Legends title from May to July.

The Overwatch League had previously shifted events set to take place in China to Seoul, South Korea, before ultimately canceling them altogether. 

"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. "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. No adjustments have been made for any other scheduled Overwatch League events."

Meanwhile, events in Activision's other major esports league, the Call of Duty League, remains unchanged, though Wednesday's statement did say that "scheduling considerations are being addressed" and updates will be provided soon. 

Shortly after the official announcement, Activision Blizzard esports CEO and Overwatch League commissioner Pete Vlastelica took to Twitter in an attempt to clarify the statement: "To be clear, we WILL be playing matches in March and April. We cancelled the events, not the matches (though we will have to move a few things around in the schedule to make this work)." 

In a subsequent tweet, Vlastelica confirmed that the matches would be broadcast.

Activision Blizzard did not immediately respond to requests for clarification on Vlastelica's comments, including the specifics of what "events" are canceled and whether scheduled matches will be held in front of live audiences.

On Friday, the league announced that matches planned for March and April will "be played live in an online format," as is the case for the Call of Duty League. Matches are expected to resume online on March 21.

"We’re currently working on a revamped match schedule that will allow all teams around the world to begin competing in March while minimizing latency concerns," the league said on Friday. "We will structure the March and April matches with teams competing within three groups based on regional geography."

The league will roll out its revised match schedule next week and all matches will be streamed on OWL's official YouTube channel. The league plans on returning to planned live events with audiences "as soon as it is safe and logistically possible."

As a result of moving the postponements and restructuring, OWL is moving its All-Star Weekend to after the 2020 season and are canceling its Midseason Tournament.

In what has already been a dire day on Wednesday for video game events, the Overwatch League's announcement came just hours after the official cancelation of June's E3 convention in Los Angeles, one of the largest annual gaming events on the calendar.

March 11, 1:41 p.m. Updated with Vlastelica's comments

March 13, 10:24 a.m. Updated with statement regarding online-only matches