The Esports world has been shaken up in the last month in multiple leagues, with Coronavirus, or Wuhan Virus shocking the world and spreading to multiple countries. While of course, the health threat effects fans and players alike, esports fans also face logistical issues in 2020 if the outbreak is not resolved. In League of Legends; the LPL and LCK have seen different effects, and in Overwatch, the OWL has seen changes to its operations. With these changes to many leagues, complications with scheduling may arise, as most leagues have had uninterrupted operations for many years.
LPL (League of Legends Pro League)
We have decided to postpone week 2 of the LPL until we can ensure the safety and health of our players and fans.
To our fans, we sincerely apologize that it has come to this and we will share any and all info as soon as we can.
Stay Safe and thank you all for your support!
— LPL (@lplenglish) January 26, 2020
To understand the effects of coronavirus on the esports world, we have to put things in the context of an entire year, starting with the LPL, League of Legends’ premier league in China. With China being the origin of the coronavirus outbreak, the LPL was the first league to see the effects of the outbreak, with Tencent, the company that owns Riot Games’ operations in China, suspending all LPL games until the safety of players and fans can be assured. This safety measure is a smart move from Tencent but can have large ramifications on scheduling for League of Legends on the international level. With the Mid Season Invitational in a couple of months and no clear end to coronavirus in sight, the LPL could face serious scheduling issues. If the LPL resumes before MSI, the LPL will have an entire split’s worth of games to play in a matter of weeks to prepare properly for MSI.
If the LPL remains suspended through MSI, the region will go unrepresented, as well as cause issues with the format at the first international tournament of the year, which could cause problems with seeding at the World Championship in China this year. Furthermore, if the LPL remains suspended into Worlds 2020, the entire tournament could face format issues as the number of teams attending the tournament would drop by 3, creating issues with both the group stage and bracket stage format. These issues, while currently theoretical, are serious possibilities that could affect League of Legends on the international scale.
LCK (League Champions Korea)
Next, we take a look at the LCK and its solution to the coronavirus outbreak. Unlike the LPL, the LCK has not suspended all games, as the outbreak is less severe in South Korea than it is in China. With that in mind, Riot Korea has suspended all in-studio audiences at LoL Park, the main stage the LCK plays on. Unfortunately, the LCK live experience will be quieter than previous splits, but this is a wise solution to help prevent the spread of coronavirus to other fans or players themselves. While this will have minimal ramifications on the LCK as a league, this does speak to the concern internationally around the current outbreak.
Finally, in the Overwatch League, Blizzard has recently dedicated resources to making the OWL a city-based international competitive league, meaning that teams and players travel from city to city across the world to compete in regular season matches. With the coronavirus outbreak, Blizzard has officially cancelled all home games taking place in China to prevent further spread internationally. Blizzard seemingly intends to change venues for the Chinese teams so that scheduling and playoff brackets will remain unaffected. This bodes well for OWL fans and teams as the overall viewing experience will be relatively unchanged. However, this does throw a wrench into the experiment Blizzard started this year, with teams playing out of city-based arenas worldwide.
Acknowledging all of these issues for the esports world, we also can’t forget the human element to the recent outbreak. With many lives affected, we must remember that everyone, not only the infected, might be touched by the coronavirus. Keeping this in mind, we must remember that coronavirus is not an excuse to mistreat our fellow humans in a time of need. Those who are infected or know someone who has been infected may be seriously emotionally touched by the outbreak, and those who are at no risk of infection are just as innocent as ourselves. Anyone could be affected by coronavirus, no matter their nationality, race, economic status, age or gender. As we move forward, we must remember that infected or not, we are all human, and prejudice will only make matters worse.
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