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Coronavirus Fear Continues to Cancel Esports Events

Dustin Steiner  | 
coronavirus

As fear of the coronavirus increases throughout the world, esports tournament organizers have had to take necessary precautions. (Photo courtesy HLTV)

The Coronavirus outbreak has caused numerous unforeseen effects across the esports industry. Indeed, a virus of this scale has not been seen in the modern era of competitive video gaming, and has been a stress test on the entire industry, especially in Asia.

The effects have not been isolated to one game or continent though, and we’ve rounded up all of the cancellations, effects, and ongoing concerns of the esports industry in one place, sorted by game.

As of this writing, there have been nearly 120,000 cases of Coronavirus, with over 4,000 deaths. The United States has had about 1,000 cases thus far. The city of Los Angeles still has a standing State of Emergency around the outbreak as well.

League of Legends

The League of Legends Champions Korea is currently indefinitely postponed after the conclusion of its round one games. This is after audiences were earlier barred from entry and a few health scares among casters and staff. It’s unclear at present what the plan will be to catch the league up to the rest of the world, which is rapidly closing in on the end of the Spring Split.

The League of Legends Pro League has swapped to an online only format after being postponed nearly a month and a half.

As such, they are having to play an accelerated schedule to catch up. League officials have been sent out to various team facilities, where players had to undergo a quarantine of 14 days before they were allowed to enter and play in the League.

Both the LEC and LCS have postponed their Spring seasons. Each league will allegedly be moving to an online-only format, as other leagues have, but a schedule has not been announced. The LEC will be moving Spring Finals Budapest to a “more controlled environment” in the LEC studio in Berlin, while the LCS will be moving their Spring Finals back to the studio in Los Angeles. The Rift Rivals competition between North America and Europe has also been completely cancelled.

Brazil’s CBLoL has been suspended after coronavirus concerns cause several cities to cancel live event licenses.

After multiple delays in any type of announcement, Riot pushed the Mid-Season Invitational from May to July with no location set yet.

Dota 2

Out of all esports, it didn’t seem as if the pandemic was effecting Dota 2 as much as other esports. Most teams were already in Los Angeles to prepare for the ESL One Major, but the few that were not were having major issues with with either travel or visa problems. It was widely speculated that Minor winners, Team Aster, wouldn’t even be able to come at all. Then late Wednesday evening after a travel ban from certain European countries to the U.S. had been placed by President Donald Trump, ESL finally released a statement postponing the Major.

Despite this, Summit 12, hosted by Beyond the Summit commenced in a studio setup in Los Angeles featuring three teams that were supposed to appear in the Major.

With the Dota Pro Circuit suspended, Chaos Esports Club can “no longer justify their team”. This left players to play under the name “Quincy Crew”.

Overwatch

The first season of Overwatch League’s geolocation has been put to the ultimate stress test by the coronavirus. After initially only cancelling games in China and relocating these matches to Seoul, South Korea around the Dynasty’s homestand, the entirety of the Pacific East’s homestands have been canceled through the end of March.

 

Many of the League’s teams are currently in Los Angeles training for upcoming matches. None of the makeup matches from any of the homestands in Shanghai, Seoul, Chengdu, Hangzhou or Guangzhou currently have a date where they will be made up.

As a result of this, the Spark, Hunters, Charge, Dynasty, and Dragons will not have a match until at least April 4th, week nine of the League’s third season, and well on the way to the halfway mark for these teams. The Midseason Tournament has been cancelled.  This means that these teams will become a massive wildcard, as soon as their matches are able to be made up.

The Vancouver Titans and London Spitfire have both relocated to Seoul in the wake of rising cases of COVID-19 in California. This is the second time these teams have moved in retreat of the virus, with both teams currently reporting all healthy.

The Overwatch League is set to resume Online Matches after initially being scheduled on March 21st, but have now been moved to March 28th due to technical difficulties in getting the broadcast set up.

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive

Coronavirus had a significant impact on CS:GO recently. At the IEM Katowice World Championships, the crowd was barred entry to the event by the Polish government, less than twelve hours before the event was set to kick off.

While the event did get played, refunds had to be issued to the over 15,000 fans that planned to be attendance, along with significant heartache from ESL staff. Fans in Katowice gathered in pubs and bars instead to watch the events, where ESL attended and gave out goodies to the disappointed masses by way of consolation.

No other events have been outright cancelled or delayed by COVID-19 in CS:GO, as of yet.

The Counter-Strike Pro Player’s Association is currently in talks with various CS:GO organizers over concerns around the virus.

The city of Los Angeles has declared a state of emergency around the COVID-19 outbreak. As of March 6th, FLASHPOINT announced that they are moving all of their event to Los Angeles, CA in their closed studio along with canceling playoffs in Stockholm. 

Later in March, FLASHPOINT moved to a fully online format. Despite stringent cleaning policies and screenings for every person entering the studio, FLASHPOINT thought it prudent to suspend in studio play. The casters and talent are still in studio for the event, as they are in the ESL Pro League, despite urging from the community to let casters work remotely.

Valve and ESL have postponed the ESL One Rio Major, as a result making it the only CS:GO Major to take place in 2020. The prize pool was increased to $2 million to compensate, making it the single most valuable CS:GO tournament in the game’s history.

As a result of this, the BLAST Premier has postponed its Fall Showdown to make room for the ESL One Major’s new event dates.

Dreamhack has delayed their Summer festival as well as their Dallas dates. DreamHack Summer is one of the flagship events for the long-running LAN festival and was set to see action in several esports, including CS:GO, several fighting games, and much more. Dallas was set to see similar, but would have been in the DreamHack Open format.

The Copenhagen Games, a Denmark esports staple, have been cancelled. This is always a highlight of CS:GO in Denmark every year and usually is a good scouting ground for players that are coming up in the Denmark scene, but we’ll have to wait until 2021 to see them in action.

The ESL Pro League, which was set to begin in Malta March 16th, has moved it’s regular season matches to an online format. As such, the playoffs finals which were meant to take place in April in Denver, Colorado have been moved to a studio in Europe without a live audience.

Call of Duty

The Call of Duty League first started with a variety of restrictions at the Los Angeles/OpTic Gaming Home Series. Afterwards, the league announced it will host all of its matches online for the foreseeable future.

Apex Legends

The first Major event in the Apex Legends Global Series was set to take place March 13th – 15th has been postponed by Electronic Arts. The announcement states a makeup date will be set in the future. The Online Tournament #2 for the next event will still take place on March 21st and 23rd.

The Fighting Game Community

A number of events across the FGC have been impacted by coronavirus. NorCal Regionals, Brussels Challenge, and April Annihilation (East Coast US) have all had their Capcom Pro Tour status revoked by Capcom due to worries around the virus. Brussels Challenge outright cancelled their event as a result of this. NorCal Regionals was also cancelled due to increased Coronavirus regulations. The Taipei Major was also stripped of its Capcom Pro Tour points.

The Mix-Up and Fighter’s Spirit have been postponed to July, which has significantly shifted the CPT calendar.

Additionally, Tokyo Tekken Masters was cancelled by Bandai Namco as a result of the outbreak, especially as Japan is much closer to the epicenter of Wuhan, China.

Other cancelled events include Emerald City 9 at HuskyX. This event was not on the Smash World Tour, but some top players, including Fiction, had planned on attending.

A number of other organizers have commented on the ongoing outbreak. Alex Jebailey recently went on record stating that his events would have increased sanitation stations and would be encouraging guests to wash their hands frequently. His events will continue as planned including CEO and CEO DreamlandUnfortunately, a number of top entrants have begun to pull out, causing Jebailey to question what will become of CEO 2020 and beyond. The Brawlhalla competition has completely pulled out of CEO Dreamland as a result of the travel concerns around COVID-19, as well. 

EVO founder Joey Cuellar was on record stating there were no plans to cancel. He later deleted that tweet, calling the status of the event into question again. All MGM properties, including Mandalay Bay Convention Center, are currently closed with intentions to reopen when “it is safe to do so.”

The Panda Global Rankings have decided to freeze the rankings before CEO Dreamland and will not lift the freeze until it is safe to travel. There’s been no announced changes to the Smash World Tour, as of yet.

Final Round 2020 also announced that they would be cancelling and only offering partial refunds to patrons in order to offset losses from the event.

As of late March, Capcom has cancelled the first half of the Capcom Pro Tour for Street Fighter V. The series will not resume until after July, with further announcements expected to be judged at the time. This means that events like Combo Breaker are out of luck and will not be included in this year’s tour. Many fighting game organizers are going to feel the effects of this, if they are even able to run their events at all.

Rainbow Six Siege

The Rainbow Six Siege Pro League Finals, which were set to be played in Sao Paulo, Brazil May 16th, have been canceled. All prize money will be distributed to top teams according to each region’s standings.

Rocket League

The RLCS Season 9 Finals have been cancelled by Psyonix, with no plans for a make-up date or time announced as of yet. The event was set to take place in Dallas, TX between April 24th – 26th.

The remainder of the RLCS and Rival Series competition has also been moved online to ensure the safety of competitors and broadcast talent, as well.

TwitchCon

Though only tangentially related to esports, TwitchCon has been a cornerstone of the streaming community for years, and its Amsterdam incarnation has been completely cancelled as a result of the worsening coronavirus conditions in Germany.

Pokemon

The 2020 Pokémon Europe International Championships have been cancelled on the advice of local public health officials in Europe. While this will not necessarily affect every event on the Play! Circuit, it will affect all events organized by The Pokemon Company directly. This means that these circuit events will not count towards qualification this year.

Currently, there are no plans to postpone or cancel the 2020 Pokémon North America International Championships or 2020 Pokémon World Championships.

Hearthstone

The Masters Tour Los Angeles event was moved entirely online due to the “broad international nature” of the event.

“Adjusting travel plans can be a difficult ask, so we will be providing up to $1,500 in reimbursement for non-refundable travel arrangements to all qualified competitors who have already booked their travel to Los Angeles,” Blizzard said in a statement. “We deeply apologize for any inconvenience this decision may cause—we love this community, and moving to an online format for Masters Tour Los Angeles is for the health and safety of our players with so many of them traveling from so many different countries.”

What’s next for Esports’ response?

Outright cancellations of esports events has been the worst effect of the Coronavirus on esports thus far. There have been no reported cases of an esports athlete contracting the virus as of yet, and tournament organizers want to keep it that way.

The safest bet that organizers seem to be taking is moving a majority of competitions online, as large gatherings of people tend to have the greatest risk of spreading the disease. In the absence of that, some events have been banning audiences, which while it makes for a better viewing experience, could lead to a much higher than necessary overhead for some of these events.

It’s also possible that any economic downturn in the world’s economy as a result of the virus could have trickle down effects to esports, as investors get increasingly nervous. While there has not yet been a case of an investor pulling their money from an organization, the 2008 recession in the US did (at least indirectly) cause the end of the Championship Gaming Series. There’s no suggestion that this could happen again, just yet, but if things continue to get worse it could eventually become an issue.

Dustin Steiner
Dustin Steiner
Dustin Steiner is an esports and gaming journalist who has been covering fighting games and their competitive scene since 2011. You can follow his daily musings on the industry on Twitter @GetSteinered.