2020 marks a new era for Call of Duty esports. A new city-based franchised league has been created with 12 brand new teams set to compete at the highest level of professional Call of Duty esports. There have been many sceptics, including myself, surrounding the creation of the new league. In this article, I take a look at whether it is going to be a success.
If we look back to simpler times, where Activision Blizzard had no involvement in competitive Call of Duty and the scene was growing organically, Black Ops 2 is arguably one of the best competitive titles to date and there’s numerous reasons as to why this is.
The introduction of a ranked playlist was the catalyst for several casual players to get involved with CoD esports. It was also the first time that Activision showed some form of interest in the competitive scene, providing $1 million in prize money for the 2013 world championship, the first event of its kind.
What also helped was the game being great for competitive play. The maps were very well designed, weapon balance was good and the spawn mechanic seemed to make a lot of sense, something that a Call of Duty title in the present day cannot get right.
Move forward seven years and Activision Blizzard has significantly increased its involvement with the esports scene, offering an increased prize pool and an increase in promotion for the competitive circuit. Nowadays, the competitive scene is let down by the title that is being brought out by the developer rather than the lack of support from Activision Blizzard.
Comparisons to the OWL
The move to a city-based franchised league is a decision that has been met with a lot of scepticism from a community that didn’t see a need for such a radical change to a format that appeared to be working well.
The CDL will feature several elements from Activision Blizzard’s sister esports league, the Overwatch League (OWL). The Call of Duty League will feature homestand events, something that the OWL did not introduce into the league until its third season — so why is there a need for Call of Duty to follow the same formula in its inaugural season?
The addition of franchises has come at a cost for Call of Duty esports. Legacy brands such as OpTic Gaming, FaZe Clan, eUnited and Team Envy have all bitten the dust in place of 12 new and original brands that have been received with a mixed reception from fans. Will such a drastic change to a formula that seemed to be working pay off? Will fans invest in the new franchises? Only time will tell.
In an interview with ESPN Esports, 100 Thieves owner Matt “Nadeshot” Haag stated that he was “cautiously optimistic” in regards to the CDL and its relative success in its first year. 100 Thieves is one of the several brands that has chosen not to enter the league for numerous reasons, one of which is that the owners of a franchise spot have to create new and original brands.
Branding is something that is extremely important to Haag and 100 Thieves. Despite his lack of involvement in the league, I’m sure that he will be keeping a close eye on the league and whether it is viable to enter when it inevitably expands in the future.
In my opinion, I didn’t think that Call of Duty esports needed such a radical change to its esports circuit, especially when the Overwatch League hasn’t exactly been the most successful franchised esports league. I am however optimistic as to how well it succeeds. The next two to three years are going to be crucial as to whether the league succeeds.
What Call of Duty REALLY needs is a developer that is willing to work with the competitive scene to make the game as competitive as possible. Hopefully, with the help of the players and the league, CoD 2020 will be much more suited to competitive play than Modern Warfare is.
Initially scheduled to end on February 3rd, season one on Modern Warfare is now going to end on February 11. Before the end of the season, a new crossbow weapon will also be added into the game.