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Could Call of Duty Become the Biggest Esport?


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.