COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on competitive Smash
The COVID-19 pandemic is an ongoing pandemic of a disease called coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19 for short, caused by a virus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (abbreviated to SARS-CoV-2). The outbreak was first identified in Wuhan, Hubei, China, in December 2019, and recognized as a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 11, 2020. COVID-19 has been reported in more than 200 countries and territories, with major outbreaks occurring in mainland China, Europe, Iran, Latin America (especially Brazil), and the United States. On March 13th, the WHO stated that Europe had become the new epicenter of the pandemic. Public health responses have included national pandemic preparedness and response plans, travel restrictions, quarantines, curfews, event postponements and cancelations, and facility closures.
This pandemic has also affected the competitive Super Smash Bros. community through numerous tournament cancelations and postponements for public health safety.
Coronavirus disease 2019
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by a virus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Common symptoms include fever, cough, fatigue, shortness of breath, and loss of smell and taste. While the majority of cases result in mild symptoms, some progress to acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) possibly precipitated by cytokine storm, multi-organ failure, septic shock, and blood clots. The time from exposure to onset of symptoms is typically around five days, but may range from two to fourteen days.
The virus is primarily spread between people during close contact, most often via small droplets produced by coughing, sneezing, and talking. The droplets usually fall to the ground or onto surfaces rather than travelling through air over long distances. However, the transmission may also occur through smaller droplets that are able to stay suspended in the air for longer periods of time in enclosed spaces, as typical for airborne diseases. Less commonly, people may become infected by touching a contaminated surface and then touching their face. It is most contagious during the first three days after the onset of symptoms, although spread is possible before symptoms appear, and from people who do not show symptoms.
Impacts on the competitive scene
The 2020 MPGR and Spring 2020 PGRU are currently frozen as of March 12th, 2020. No further events, including CEO Dreamland 2020, will count towards player ranking. Depending on the length of the freeze, this may lead to only one ranking at the end of the year.
Likewise, the Smash World Tour 2020 circuit announced that there would not be any Platinum- or Gold-tier events in March and April 2020; a later update further extended the date to June 1, 2020. Silver events would continue as normal, however, it was recommended for sick people to stay home. Several events were canceled or postponed independently of Smash World Tour's rulings. Missed point opportunities were planned to be made up later. A TO relief fund shop was later opened on Smash.gg.
In Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, the metagames of recently released fighters, such as Terry, Byleth, Min Min, and Steve, have been largely unproven due to them having had little time to be played in offline tournaments.
While online tournaments had been a part of the scene for years, the cancellation of several high profile offline tournaments led many players to turn to online play for their tournament fixes. Many weeklies such as Xeno and Xanadu moved online, while tournaments such as the bunker down series and 2GG Crisis Core: Final Saga served as online fundraisers to help recoup losses. Several tournament series held online alternatives, including Pound Online, Collision Online, and Get On My Line 2020.
YouTubers Alpharad and Cr1tikal started hosting The Quarantine Series, a 4-month long circuit that has a prize pool ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 per tournament and a planned $50,000 for the finale. In the first tournament of the circuit, over 5,000 entrants registered to play, making it the largest known online Smash tournament without factoring in disqualifications, defeating Soaked Series Invitational's record from a month earlier. This record was later defeated by Hungrybox's tournament The Box, which had over 8,000 entrants.
As online play rewards different tactics from offline play, the new online tournaments differ greatly from in-person tournaments; the added input delay and lag has allowed characters such as Sonic, Cloud, and Roy to see much more success. Some controversy came about when players from distant regions such as Tarik participated in these tournaments, specifically Pound Online, with many players believing tournaments should be region-locked to reduce latency. As a result, all further tournaments in The Quarantine Series (and others such as The Box) were region-locked to the United States, Canada, and Mexico, and the prize pools were extended from the top 8 to top 16 to reduce the added stress with playing online. With many more players relying on online play, frustration with the game's online service grew to a peak; the hashtag "#FixUltimateOnline" became the number one gaming trend on Twitter on April 23.
In regions with relatively few cases of COVID-19, such as Japan, Taiwan, Australia, and New Zealand, or that have otherwise allowed large gatherings, such as France and Germany, offline play has resumed, although with smaller entrant numbers and safety precautions enforced.
List of tournaments affected by the pandemic
Below is a list of tournaments that have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic through cancelations, postponements, or major players dropping out.