Psyonix have hit the breaks on Rocket League's upcoming World Championships. Scheduled to take place from April 24-26 in Dallas, Texas, growing concerns around the Covid-19 situation have convinced the developers to cancel the event, move the rest of Season 9's championship games online and offer full refunds to anyone who'd pre-purchased a chance to see some world-class car footy.
Psyonix broke the news in a blog post earlier today, writing that "due to worldwide health concerns surrounding the developing situation around the coronavirus (Covid-19), we are cancelling the Rocket League Season 9 World Championship live event".
But while the devs are looking into alternatives to replace the World Championship format for the time being, Season 9's Regional Championships and Promotion Tournament will go ahead as planned. The Rocket League Championship Series (RLCS) will still get weekly broadcasts - as will the Rivals series - but casting will no longer take place in the usual studio. Future shows will take place online to preserve the "health and wellbeing of our broadcast talent."
Psyonix will, at least, offer automatic full refunds to ticket holders - even offering to pay back folk who'd pre-reserved a parking space at the site. They'll also be emailing codes for an exclusive in-game wheel to ticket-holders, in lieu of giving it out to attendees during the show.
Rocket League isn't the first game to scupper its esports plans over the outbreak. From Korean Overwatch League matches to EVE Online's Fanfest, developers are playing it safe when it comes to putting thousands of their fans, players and developers in a packed convention hall.
It also comes in the wake of GDC's last-minute cancellation over fears of spreading the infection. While larger outfits can bear the cost of scrubbing their travel plans, the late notice left many smaller companies and indie studios reliant on relief funds like Wings and Gamedev.world to recoup the substantial costs of jetting out to San Francisco for the week.
The organisers behind E3, the Electronic Software Association, insist that the 2020 show will go ahead as planned. With a packed event schedule for the next few months myself, I'll be keeping an eye on the global healthcare situation as it develops.