Citing concerns about the coronavirus, video game publisher and esports organizer Activision Blizzard is calling off esports events in its popular Overwatch League through April.
Activision confirmed the postponement and noted in an online statement, “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.”
Activision added: “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.”
Overwatch League Commissioner and Activision Blizzard Esports Chief Executive Pete Vlastelica said on Twitter that the matches will still happen, but not live, and that Activision is looking into how to broadcast them.
And yes, the matches will be broadcast. https://t.co/ovM50K1TLN
— Pete Vlastelica (@PeteVlastelica) March 11, 2020
This year marks the third season of the Overwatch League. Each team plays in 28 games throughout the season — and over 50 matches were scheduled worldwide throughout March and April.
In a move closely aligned with the franchise model operated by traditional “stick-and-ball sports,” Activision is no longer hosting Overwatch League matches in Burbank and instead operates what it calls a “homestand” model where teams travel to each other’s home arenas to compete. The teams are broken into four divisions based on location, and the division winners convene to compete in the Grand Finals in the fall.
Activision noted that beyond April, “no adjustments have been made for any other scheduled Overwatch League events.”
The postponement is the latest in a rolling blackout of cancellations or changes to the spring 2020 esports calendar, which is taking a hit as more municipalities warn against convening for large public events.
Earlier on Wednesday the biggest video game conference of the year, E3, was canceled by its organizer (the Electronic Software Association) amid growing concerns the June conference could become a contaminated zone.
Activision Blizzard’s “Overwatch” team also experienced a shakeup today as its lead writer Michael Chu, who was with the team for two decades, announced his departure. In addition to the “Overwatch” series, Chu was instrumental in creating Activision’s “Diablo” and “World of Warcraft” titles.
Twenty years after first walking through the doors at Blizzard, I’m moving on to new adventures! Overwatch has been an amazing experience and one that I will treasure forever. Thank you to everyone for your support over the years! https://t.co/rG4zPe9SGC
— Michael Chu ???????? (@westofhouse) March 11, 2020
Activision is at work now on “Overwatch 2,” a sequel to the original 2016 game that doesn’t yet have a release date.