In a bid to minimize the risk of a continually spreading coronavirus, Blizzard recently moved to postpone all Overwatch League homestand matches for March and April. Now, it has announced that all planned matches will still proceed live in an online format, explaining that “online play allows us to prioritize the health and safety of our entire community while still continuing to bring fans high-quality entertainment and competition.”
With the online competitive play set to begin on March 21, the cancellation of live events seems to make no major impact on the progression of the league and its season. The previous schedule is being reworked in a way that will allow for teams to begin competing but also minimize any concerns regarding latency. As such, March and April will see matches organized with teams competing in three groups decided upon by their regional geography.
Although fans will no longer be able to see the events at a live location, they will still be able to watch the action as it unfolds in real time. All matches will be shown on YouTube live and on demand for later viewing. This looks to be the way that teams will compete in the Overwatch League until further notice.
Blizzard also states that since many teams and players have yet to play, the All-Star Weekend will be moved after the conclusion of the 2020 season, while the Midseason Tournament is cancelled entirely.
The news is the best that fans could have hoped for given the state of global concern over the spread of the coronavirus. Now, it remains to be seen if Blizzard can adequately address any concerns of latency between players. At this levels of elite play among the best in the world, even the slightest connection difference could mean the difference between victory and defeat.
This kind of challenge is not something that other genres of games need to worry about. By comparison, another Blizzard game like Hearthstone hardly needs its players to experience the same type of connection, since each player only engages with the game on their turn.
Still, if Blizzard can ensure that latency is not an issue, fans will still be able to watch their favorite teams duke it out as the season progresses for a shot at the top spot.
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