The Overwatch League and Call of Duty League, both of which Activision Blizzard envisioned would mirror traditional sports leagues with live audiences, is moving online for now as a safeguard against the novel coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19.
The Overwatch League said that the homestand events for March and April, which were recently canceled, will be played live in online matches that will start on March 21.
The league is working on a revised schedule to minimize the lag between matches of teams in different parts of the world. For the online matches of March and April, Overwatch League teams will be divided into three groups based on their region.
The Call of Duty League, similarly, is moving all of its scheduled live events to online matches, all of which will be broadcast live. The dates of the matches will be announced soon.
Both leagues said that they will return to city-based matches with live audiences as soon as it is safe for everyone involved. However, due to the nature of the coronavirus, it is not possible to determine an expected return date.
The online matches of the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League will be exclusively streamed and stored on their dedicated channels on YouTube, after Activision Blizzard and Google entered a multi-year partnership in January. YouTube was supposed to host the official live broadcasts from the stadiums where the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League matches would be held before they were suspended amid the pandemic.
The Overwatch League recently started experimenting with hero pools for the March 7 and March 8 matches at the Washington Justice Homestand, with McCree, Widowmaker, Reinhardt, and Moira making up the first batch of heroes who were temporarily banned. The hero pools will continue once Overwatch League matches resume.
E-sports continue through COVID-19
While various traditional sports leagues have been forced to suspend their seasons, including the NBA, NHL, and MLS, the digital nature of e-sports will allow the Overwatch League and Call of Duty League to continue this year after making certain adjustments. Cities may not be able to root for their basketball, hockey, or soccer teams, but they may still cheer for their favorite e-sports teams.
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