Earlier Wednesday, one of the League’s teams, the Paris Eternal, announced on Twitter it had canceled a weekend of matches set for April 11 and 12 in Paris. The decision marked the first canceled matches due to the coronavirus outside of China and South Korea.
The World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a global pandemic on Wednesday. There are over 120,000 cases of the covid-19 virus worldwide. The White House is considering placing all of Europe under a Level 3 travel advisory, discouraging all nonessential travel. So far, more than 30 people have been killed by the virus in the United States. States and municipalities with the most cases are already banning mass gatherings and events.
Seoul Dynasty Chief Operating Officer Arnold Hur said that in every decision, the league has always prioritized the health and safety of the teams. He was confident that the League would figure out some solution to the schedule in response to the virus. It just might not be perfect.
But, Hur said, “sometimes I think done is better than perfect."
The league will adapt, Hur said, adding this is one area where the OWL is particularly well-suited. The Overwatch League is young and, compared to traditional sports, it’s completely possible for them to pivot the schedule to accommodate for the outbreak.
“The league will adapt and evolve,” Hur told The Post. “Imagine having to change the freaking NBA.”
This was supposed to be an season of growth for the Overwatch League (OWL), with teams spread out across 19 cities around the world. League officials intended to meet a lofty goal: to become the first truly international esports leagues with teams competing in different cities week-to-week.
Instead, the only matches held so far this season have been in the United States. A quarter of the league hasn’t played a single match. Meanwhile, some teams have already played up to seven this season. It’s not immediately clear how OWL will reschedule the matches now canceled through April.
Vlastelica did confirm on Twitter that any rescheduled matches on YouTube will continue to use the rotating hero pool, a weekly rotation that selectively bans four characters from competitive play. The rule change appears to have changed how the game will be played. It’s an added mechanic that will force coaches to change strategies week-to-week and players will need to excel at a wider range of heroes than before.
Activision Blizzard created Overwatch League to mirror the success of traditional sports franchises. Teams are set in local markets so that fans can throw their support behind their hometown. Each franchise was expected to host a series of weekend competitions, called homestands, in their city. The schedule meant months of planning, added costs and logistics to fly teams week-to-week. Instead of focusing on and solving for those issues, the league and its teams have had to cope with the global footprint of the coronavirus, and all the complications it has brought to live events with sizable crowds.