All Overwatch League homestand games for March and April are cancelled effective immediately, the OWL confirmed Wednesday. The goal of the league is to control potential exposure to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
“After careful review and working in close collaboration with our teams, we are canceling all Overwatch League events scheduled for March and April,” the OWL wrote, adding:
“Concurrently, 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. 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.”
OWL management further elaborated that this does not mean cancellation of the matches themselves, just the homestand events. The planned matches will still be played and the league will continue.
Due to the multiple rescheduling of homestand events, only the Atlantic Conference of the OWL has been active so far, as the Pacific Conference hosts all of the Asian teams, most affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The initial plan was for the Pacific Conference to resume in May with homestand games, but if the league is moving to an online competition, it’s possible that the Pacific Conference teams return to active play.
While the online solution is certainly a work-around, the mass cancellation of homestand games is likely to hurt the Overwatch League in the long run. 2020 is the first season with homestand games and its goal was to prove that this format is sustainable and these months of delay are not doing the OWL any favors. The league is already struggling with viewership after its move to YouTube, holding an average viewership of just over 65,000 — a significant drop from OWL 2019 on Twitch.
OWL average viewership (per Esports Charts):
- OWL 2019 Stage 1: 164,294
- OWL 2019 Stage 2: 120,161
- OWL 2019 Stage 3: 102,350
- OWL 2014 Stage 4: 101,608
- OWL 2019 Playoffs: 110,093
- OWL 2020: 65,528
The OWL is by no means the only esports event affected by the coronavirus. In League of Legends, Riot Games had to postpone the 2020 Mid-Season Invitational by two months, cancel all Rift Rivals events, and move the LEC Spring Finals from Budapest back to their Berlin studio. Korea’s LCK, on the other hand, is on indefinite hiatus, while China’s LPL returned only this week with an online format.
In Dota 2, the ESL One LA Major has been cancelled and is to be rescheduled after the USA issued a travel suspension to Europe passengers. In CS:GO, the ESL Pro League Season 11 has also been moved online, while the new FLASHPOINT league moved its entire production to Los Angeles and cancelled its Stockholm playoffs event.