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How the Coronavirus Could Impact Overwatch, Esports Industry

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The Overwatch League, a subsidiary of Activision Blizzard  (ATVI) - Get Activision Blizzard Inc Report, made its much anticipated 2020 season on February 8 and 9 with a total of eight matches being played over the weekend.

The matches were split between the famed Hammerstein Ballroom in New York City and the recently constructed Esports Stadium in Arlington, Texas. 

The two events were a smashing success even with the news of the coronavirus looming over Asia, where the spread of the virus is raising questions on how the league will respond.

With 5 home-stand matches already either being canceled or postponed in February and March due to the spread of the virus, the league and the esports industry as a whole, are scrambling on how to balance player safety, while not affecting the viewership of a venture that is aggressively seeking to broaden their audience.

The cancelation of the 5 home-stands has led to the postponement of 27 games with the teams based in China being impacted the most. The Shanghai Dragons of the Pacific conference will not play until week 11 of the 27-week long season.

The Hangzhou Sparks and Guangzhou Charge have begun offering refunds on tickets to their first scheduled home-stands. Of the four teams that are based in China, only the Chengdu Hunters have chosen to remain in China, while the remaining 3 have relocated to South Korea for the time being.

The events over the weekend were abuzz with excitement and lively crowds, as the concerns over the virus seemed to take a back seat to the anticipation of the season opener. Only a handful of protective masks were spotted throughout the crowds.

As more information on the spread and containment of the virus becomes available, the industry will continue to focus on safety while attempting to minimize the disruption of their live events.

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