Coronavirus leaves OWL's Chinese teams, Season 3 events in limbo

Jessica S. January 29, 2020

The global outbreak of the coronavirus has shut down several Chinese cities. That has many Overwatch League fans wondering what’s going to happen with the three China-based teams set to host opponents in their hometowns this season.

There have been over 6,000 cases of the coronavirus diagnosed in China, with the disease claiming over 130 lives so far. The disease seems to have originated in the city of Wuhan, which is a fair distance from the three OWL cities. Despite that, fears of the disease and its rapid spread have still prompted Chinese authorities to quarantine cities and shut down a number of public gatherings, most notably several major Lunar New Year celebrations.

These precautionary measures have impacted esports as well, with China’s LPL League of Legends league postponed at this time. It’s likely that these issues will come to Overwatch as well but to this point, there is no word on how large of an impact they will have on the 2020 season.

Blizzard is also yet to discuss any kind of contingency plans, should the homestands in China be cancelled or if Chinese teams end up unable to compete.

Guangzhou Charge take action, but no word from OWL

Blizzard isn’t alone in taking a quiet approach to the coronavirus concerns. Neither the Hunters nor the Spark have publicly discussed their plans ahead of the 2020 season. The lone institution to discuss their plans are the Charge. Guangzhou has already moved its non-Chinese players to South Korea for the remainder of the pre-season training, with plans to relocate other players and staff as well.

With the uncertainty of the outbreak, there’s no clear indication of when the team will be able to move back to their home base. Most fans are wondering about the home games that are supposed to be played in China, and the Charge did give some insight about what is happening behind the scenes.

“Since the escalation of the outbreak, we and other teams in the Pacific East Division have been discussing solutions together and with the Overwatch League. The reality is that the situation is unpredictable, complex, and urgent,” Guangzhou said in a statement. “We hope our fans can understand what the Chinese teams and the league are faced with, and will wait patiently for official announcements from the league.”

Support player Alberto “neptuNo” Gonzalez Molinillo Tweeted that he is safe in China, and that there would be no possibility for a return to China without the virus being contained.

For now, fans will just have to sit and wait to see what’s going to happen to their homestands. Officials at the OWL will have a tough decision ahead of them.

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