Even Esports Is Affected by the Coronavirus in China

The LPL, the official League of Legends professional franchise in China, was postponed due to coronavirus concerns.

Unless you’ve been actively avoiding any human contact whatsoever, which you probably will after hearing this, you’ve likely heard about the newest “coronavirus” mutation. The new coronavirus has put the whole world into panic, and with origins in China, the nation has taken precautions. Many events in China are postponed or cancelled as a precaution—and it looks like this includes the LPL, a massive esports league.

The League of Legends Pro League, better known as the LPL, is now on an indefinite hiatus. It’s a big deal given the LPL is the official League of Legends circuit for Chinese teams.

It’s understandably an anticipated series, as the region has remained a dominant force both as a local esports mainstay and on the international stage. Most famously, it was the first LoL circuit to implement a franchise system due to its massive home fanbase.  In League of Legends’s past three annual international tournaments, known as Worlds, Chinese teams took home the trophies. Unfortunately, it looks like players and fans at home and around the world need to wait to see the action kick off again.

“We have decided to postpone week 2 of the LPL until we can ensure the safety and health of our players and fans,” the league announced on its official Twitter account. There’s no word on this is self-imposed or part of the wider sports shutdown.

LPL actually started several weeks ago, with one week of games the week of January 13th. The league intends for games to run daily, with different teams cycling in and out each event. However, the league already went on break for several weeks to celebrate the Lunar New Year. It meant to resume on February 5th (locally), which now can’t happen for obvious reasons.

Both Chinese fans and international fans looked forward to the continuation of the series, but the precautions aren’t unwarranted. LPL has a unique format compared to other League of Legends regions. Several teams have “host” arenas across the country: in Beijing, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Suzhou, and Xi’an. Any teams without an arena play “home” games in Shanghai. With fans, staff, and players travelling around the country and even world, it makes sense to delay the leagues in order to avoid risk.

The Chinese New Year visitations may have left at least one important team member stranded. The coach for the popular team EDward Gaming, Ming “Clearlove” Kai, was in Wuhan for the holiday and speculated he might be trapped in a major lockdown. Others speculate that several players from the massive region may be caught as well due to similar visitations.

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And this isn’t any lockdown. These LPL players are from or in the newly-locked-down Hubei region, a region of China with a population of nearly 60 million. There are 11 million living in the capital city of Wuhan, the first area with a lockdown, where scientists speculate the outbreak started. The city is physically five times as big as London and several million more in population.

Through the lockdown, scientists hope to contain the virus and make it manageable. In short, with the current severity of and confusion over the virus, these players could be there for a while.

As for Americans, we aren’t sure how severe the virus may be. Five cases were confirmed across the country at screening checkpoints, but we don’t know how long the contagious period is. But if we treat our coronaviruses like some moms treat measles and vaccines… hm, I’m not optimistic.

[DISCLAIMER: Riot Games and the LPL franchise league are owned by Tencent, which also owns Fanbyte. However, Fanbyte is considered an editorially independent publication and has no connection otherwise Riot and LPL. I’m just here reporting the news, honestly, given Tencent just basically owns everything relevant in gaming now, please be kind.]

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Victoria Rose

Victoria is a Brooklyn-based, chaotic-good former dungeon master and a Contributor-At-Large for Fanbyte. She's a self-proclaimed esports pundit, and used to do Dota 2 news and reporting as a full-time part-time gig. She's also four red pandas stacked in a hoodie. [she/her/hers or they/their/theirs]

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