Activision Blizzard announced the move with a statement on Wednesday, the same day the World Health Organization declared coronavirus a global pandemic. The publisher said it’s monitoring “city-level recommendations and mandates, and all guidelines set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
“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,” the statement read. “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.”
Activision Blizzard Esports CEO and Overwatch League commissioner Pete Vlastelica clarified on Twitter that the matches themselves will still take place, however, and be broadcast. It’s the events surrounding them that are canceled.
“To be clear, we WILL be playing matches in March and April,” he wrote. “We cancelled the events, not the matches (though we will have to move a few things around in the schedule to make this work). And yes, the matches will be broadcast.”
The statement added that no changes have been made to other scheduled Overwatch League events. It also noted that scheduling for Activision Blizzard’s other major current esport, the Call of Duty League, is being addressed, and that further updates are forthcoming.
It’s only the latest cancellation in this season of Overwatch League, the first season where matches were to take a fully home-and-away format. It was announced in January that all matches scheduled for China, where four of the league’s teams — the Shanghai Dragons, Chengdu Hunters, Guangzhou Charge and Hangzhou Spark — are based. In February, it was forced to cancel a series of matches that were set to take place in South Korea.
Earlier on Wednesday, the Paris Eternal announced that it was canceling its April 11-12 homestand, the first events outside of Asia to be canceled.