It is to no one surprise that the bookmakers have shifted their attention from physical sports to esports. Not only bookmakers, also sport fans are desperately looking for their shot of adrenaline and serotonin from a good match! Esports on first glance seems to be the perfect suspect to satisfy our needs. For years, esports have been the promising entertainment of the future. Until now, since despite the promises it never really caught on with the large public. Is this the time to shine for the digital generation? We believe it is and so far we have had a great time diving into this world of super star gamers.
That isn’t to say that the corona virus did not affect esports at all. Many of the large scale events, normally full with press, audience, cosplay and even booth babes have been moved purely online. Ironically, the high times of esports are going to be stigmatizing ones of lonely teenagers behind their computers. So, how did the corona virus affect esports thus far?
changes in esports from day to day
Thursday, feb 27
We start our journey at the end of february, when rumours of the corona virus in other parts of the world started spreading. Back then we had the CS:GO Intel Extreme Masters on the IEM Katowice in Poland. Although there was no confirmed case in the area at the time, Jaroslaw Wieczorek, the governor of Silesia, made the decision “to ensure the safety of residents and visitors to the region,” according to tournament organizer ESL.
Friday, 28 feb
A lot more happend today, for example with the Game Developers Conference being canceled in Northern California. There was an upsurge in the region with infections. The conference was scheduled from March 16-20. Capcom canceled the Capcom Pro Tour from their schedule, as well as the Norcal Regionals and April Annihilation.
In China, organizations passed the cancellation-phase already and started to think about how to keep as much games alive as possible. The League of Legends Pro League was continued, but mostly online. Esports venues remained closed. Players attending in their teams headquarters had to be in quarantaine prior to the tournament. Referees were flown in to ensure fair play.
March 2, Monday
The virus starts to soar, especially in South Korea around this time. The country decided to postpone the LCK play in consultation with Riot Games. There were suspicions that the host, Mina Kim, was infected with corona after going to the hospital with fever. Though she tested negative, the entire journalist staff was put into quarantine.
March 5, Thursday
Being quite decisive early on, Psyonix announced that the Rocket League Series World Championship that was planned in Texas in the end of April (24-26 april) would be canceled. This was some brilliant foresight on the part of Psyonix, with the government in the US being far from aware from the impact later in march.
March 6, Friday
March 6 is when the esports world seemed to collectively be aware of the seriousness of the virus. Mutations in the original schedules were implemented everywhere. It also meant that esports saw their opportunity that in contrary to other physical sports; they could adapt instead of cancel everything. There is no need for players to be near each other. So the Overwatch League continued as planned in Washington D.C. although there were various health precautions implemented. NeatherRealm decided to go with a similar approach by cutting of the public access in their Final Kombat events in Chicago. Though canceling a last-chance qualifier.
Electronic Arts decided to postpone the long expected first Apex Legends Global Series Major. Something many esports fans probably regret, but hopefully can understand.
In Europe, the European Pokemon International Championships was canceled after recommendations from health officials. The event was supposed to take place in Berlin during the second half of April. Another card game, Hearthstone, decided to move the Masters Tour event to an online-only format.
The Flashpoint event of CS:GO localized and canceled the extra playoff events in other cities than Los Angeles. Riot Games meanwhile carefully monitors all developments and tries to move their League European Championship spring final ‘around’ the coronavirus.
Twitch regretfully shuts down the TwitchCon in Amsterdam and the city of Austin does the same for the SXSW conference. At this time, it’s obvious that even online sports are being heavily affected by the coronavirus. It is also obvious that developers, publishers and event hosts are looking for ways to keep the esports alive in weird times.
March 9, Monday
A weekend passes and the figures keep rising. Severity is now noticeable among the world. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok gives a good example by donating 30 million Korean Won ($25,000) to the health aid to battle the virus. In China, where the virus is on a decline, the League of Legends Pro League resumes play. Though only as an online format.
March 10, Tuesday
There are roughly three ways to deal with the new situation: cancel, adjust or postpone. Today Riot Games postponed the LoL Mid-Season Invitational to July. The All Rift Rivals have been canceled. Let’s hope that we can play again in July!
March 11, Wednesday
After postponing games earlier, Activision Blizzard Esports is now canceling all remaining Overwatch League ranked games and events in March and April. In the words of Pete Vlastelica, Overwatch League commissioner things will be rescheduled, ‘but we will have to move a few things around in the schedule.’
Meanwhile Global Offensive moves his season 11 Pro League entirely online, with the finals to be played in a studio without a live audience.
Last but not leastThe E3 got canceled unfortunately, which was to be expected. This marks a symbol, as the E3 is perhaps the largest and most recognizable of all gaming events. This article lays out the start of the transformation the esports scene is going through. We expect a lot more cancellations, postponements and adaptations. But the scene is adapting like no other, and we are sure that esports will flourish in one year more than ever before!