2021 has seen Call of Duty rising from being a niche outsider to become one of the most popular esports in the world. Although there is no doubting CoD’s heritage as a stand-alone first-person shooter, it has taken some time for it to become accepted as a major esport. But with the Call of Duty League going from strength to strength, it seems as though this classic gaming franchise has found a whole new lease of life.
So what’s behind the rapid rise of CoD esports? First of all, Call of Duty is simply a gaming institution. Ever since Activision released the first-person shooter in 2003, it has set the bar for what people expect from the genre. As such, plenty of CoD fans were a little surprised to see what they consider an inferior FPS – Counter Strike Global Offensive – making such a big splash in the then nascent esports scene.
Thankfully Activision were quick to launch the Call of Duty League in January 2020. This followed a similar franchise format to the already-successful Overwatch League. As such, there would be a fixed-number of teams that would compete in the league with no relegation or promotion. The fact that the CoD league featured teams based in fixed cities such as Atlanta, Chicago and Dallas made it more understandable to fans of regular sports leagues like the NFL and NBA. Plus with the cost of a Call of Duty League franchise sport costing a rumoured $25 million, it helped raise the professionalism of the esports venture.
Big changes for the 2021 CoD League season
While the inaugural CoD League season was a resounding success, it was the changes that Activision made to the 2021 season that has helped it become a world-beater. First of all, the game was played on the Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War game on a four-player versus four-player format. With three game modes available of Search and Destroy, Hardpoint and Control, it added an extra dimension to the gameplay that made it resonate more with hardened CoD fans. Plus with a shake-up of the basic tournament structure to include a big tournament at the end, it has meant that there’s even more at stake in the run-up to the conclusion of the Call of Duty League.
It’s also worth noting that the recent legalization of esports betting in certain US states has meant that whole new audiences can bet on the Call of Duty League via the top New Jersey gambling sites on wetten.com. This has only been made possible thanks to the rigorous regulation of CoD esports to help counter any issues of match-fixing or bias.
Global appeal of CoD
The recent popularity of the Call of Duty League isn’t restricted to just the US. Being a multinational league has also helped it gain plenty of exposure all around the world. In particular, CoD was the most discussed esport on Twitter in Canada last year, and much of this could be down to the impressive performances of Toronto Ultra.
However it’s still worth noting that Call of Duty has plenty of work to do if it hopes to catch up with League of Legends. This is the iconic battle arena game which currently holds the accolade of being the world’s most popular esport. While LoL has lots of unusual features and terminology that’s unlikely to make it a hit with seasoned sports fans, the fact that there were 49.95 million concurrent viewers of the last League of Legends Worlds Championship shows that CoD will keep having to raise its game.