Coronavirus outbreak leads major esports league to cancel matches in China
- The Overwatch League has cancelled its February and March matches in China amid the coronavirus outbreak.
- Chinese officials have reported more than 7,700 cases of coronavirus infection and at least 170 people have died since early December.
- The Overwatch League season begins on February 8 and teams were expected to travel to Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou during the next two months. Those matches will be rescheduled for later in the season and tickets for the February 15 event in Shanghai are being refunded.
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The Overwatch League has cancelled match play in China through March amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak. Chinese officials have confirmed that the coronavirus has now spread to all regions of China and more than 7,700 infections have been reported since early December. As of January 30, at least 170 people have died as a result of coronavirus infection.
In a statement addressing the cancellation, the Overwatch League's Shanghai Dragons said hosting such a large gathering would increase the risk of infection for fans. The professional gaming league plans to reschedule more than a dozen matches that were scheduled in Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Hangzhou during the next two months. The Shanghai Dragons announced tickets refund for a Feb. 15 and 16 homestand as well.
The cancellation is a major complication for the Overwatch League, which adopted a traveling schedule for the first time this year. While nearly all of the Overwatch League's matches were played in Burbank, California during its first two seasons, each of the league's 20 international teams will host league matches in 2020. It's a rare and ambitious undertaking for the esports industry, bringing the Overwatch League closer to the business model of professional sports.
The Overwatch League is one of just a handful of multi-million-dollar esports leagues - Activision Blizzard operates both the Overwatch League and the Call of Duty League, offering players salaries and health benefits. Moving toward the home-away matches seen in traditional sports is an ambitious undertaking and critics are concerned the way the Overwatch League is executed will reflect on the entire esports industry.
Overwatch League's traveling model had garnered skepticism prior to the cancellations, due to the amount of international travel required with teams based on three continents. Now the cancellations in China will force the league to re-adjust a packed schedule less than 10 days before the season begins.
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