Call of Duty has reigned over console esports for over a decade, with over 11 titles being covered in its history. Given the titles lengthy past, CoD has developed itself to be one of the longest standing esport titles in the industry. However, notably, it has been on a steady decline compared to notable PC titles such as CS:GO, League of Legends and Dota 2, the big three of esports.
This year, 2019, I’m predicting, is where that all ends. Call of Duty will push to reclaim its place as one of the world’s most recognised esports and could even contend with the leagues over in the PC realm. Many will see this is as an over-the-top bold statement, but I think that it’s possible. Here’s how:
Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
Firstly, and importantly, we have to consider the game being played this year, which is, CoD:BO4. This year, developers Treyarch made a bold move towards all online gameplay and the decision to remove the “Campaign” from the game which was traditionally a single player story mode. With this move they dedicated entirely towards online multiplayer, the popular Zombies horde mode and introduced ‘Blackout’, Treyarch’s take on a Battle Royale mode. Blackout has already seen success with the ‘Doritos Bowl’ tournament which saw large streamers such as Ninja, Shroud, Courage, DrLupo and many others face off against each other at a live event. The gamemode has also grabbed interest from considerably large streamers on Twitch who have regularly played it on livestream.
On the esports side Treyarch announced that competitive play would now be 5v5 rather than the previous 4v4 style. Furthermore, they also announced ‘Fog of War’, which now allows enemies players only to be seen in a certain radius on the map along with a brand new healing system, this now means you have to manually heal compared to the previous auto heal. Both of the aforementioned changes add complexity to the game and overall make it a more competitive title. This also means that ‘public matches’ now have the same player count as competitive, making the transition for those wanting to get involved at a competitive level not all too dissimilar.
The Call of Duty World League (CWL) has also announced an increase to the total prize pool, now boasting $6 million between various events across the year. This not only gives organisations and players an added incentive to get involved but also matches what should be a 20% increase from last year, due to the now extra player involved. In all, Treyarch have done a wonderful job of creating this game and have clearly listened to feedback as their ongoing efforts two months in proves that they are here for the long term – which can be proven with Treyarch’s last title, Black Ops 3, which they continued to support with regular content regardless of the fact other publishers had released their new titles CoD titles.
This year the CWL announced three major sponsorships for the 2019 season, something we have not seen before for CoD. Mountain Dew, Scuf Gaming, Astro Gaming and ASUS RoG have all committed for the duration of league. This itself has various advantages, one being that the sponsors stay consistent throughout the entire season, and there’s a steady flow of money coming into the league. This gives those watching something to get attached to and henceforth get behind and support the sponsors/league.
Furthermore, to have brands such as those supporting the CWL it only helps in further increasing the prize pool and support at events such as ASUS RoG have supplied the monitors that are played on. Personally, I am excited to see how this further progresses the CWL and I’d love to see more Call of Duty based content around these brands in the future.
Lastly, the organisations are a key part of any esport and CoD boasts some of the biggest teams involved. This includes G2 Esports, OpTic Gaming, FaZe Clan, Splyce and the newly welcomed 100Thieves. It is becoming one of the more respectable leagues to be involved in, even more so now that 100T are involved, with CEO Nadeshot’s past, it is great to see his fan-base back involved in Call of Duty.
Call of Duty viewership has admittedly not been the best in recent years and after last year it was questioned whether CoD had a place in esports.
CWL Las Vegas peaked at 190k viewers at one point in the grand finals, smashing all of last year’s records, including CoD Champs. This brings confidence that the next event could beat the current record of around 250k viewers back in 2014. Those involved in Call of Duty can only hope that number keeps rising.
In our interview with Seth ‘Scump’ Abner, he stated: “You don’t really see those numbers in CoD esports, granted it was the first event but hopefully those numbers continue to stay the same or rise.”
This also begs the question – how can viewership keep increasing? Here is two ways that the developers and publishers could continue to improve it:
- Implement the livestream into the game itself. Just like CS:GO does on the homepage, the livestream could sit there and normal users logging in to play would notice it, this could grab their interest and hence turn them into fans of the competitive esports side.
- Simply more advertisement. Last year there seemed to be a heavy lack of advertisement for events, especially CoD Champs.his year they need to knuckle down and focus fully on the audience at hand and ensure they know where to watch, when to watch and who is playing at any given point
Regardless, Call of Duty has started the season well and the next few LAN events will really determine if the true revival of CoD can really happen.