CoD eSports: An Overview
Over the last few years, we have witnessed competitive Call of Duty grow to a level of professionalism that many believed would be unattainable for the iconic first person shooter franchise. The rate at which events have developed from online tournaments and small conference room LAN’s to entire function halls and sold out sports arenas is quite astonishing. Call of Duty has finally cemented itself as a respectable eSports title and it is becoming one of the most watched eSport in the world.
However, despite the recent success and popularity experienced within competitive Call of Duty, previous years within the professional circuit were not as glamorous as they are now. Throughout the majority of Black Ops I season most tournaments were held online, with the first major offline event being held at MLG Dallas in 2011. A measly 45 teams competed at this event, as Quantic.Leverage secured the championship, as well as a substantial $10,000. The following MLG events within Call of Duty: Black Ops saw a fluctuating number of participating teams, notably peaking with 63 competitors at MLG Raleigh in August 2011.
The Million Dollar Tournament
Nevertheless, as Call of Duty’s popularity grew within the competitive scene, so did its sponsorships, respectability, professionalism and consequently its prize pools as we witnessed the birth of the iconic $1,000,000 tournament.
The first of these tournaments, backed by the developers and Xbox, took place in September 2011, with 32 of the world’s best teams competing for their chance at a cut of the substantial seven figure prize pool.
The event showcased the multiplayer reveal of newest edition within the Call of Duty franchise, Modern Warfare 3, scheduled to be released later in the year. The winning team, which took home a colossal $400,000 was OpTic Gaming (Nadeshot, BigTymer, Merk and Vengeance).
This style of tournament quickly became the staple point of CoD eSports, with Activison and Xbox announcing a Call of Duty World Championship in 2013 on Black Ops 2. Similar to CoD XP in 2011, the championship saw 32 teams from all over the world compete for a $1million prize pool. The tournament was consequently won by Fariko Impact (Parasite, Killa, MiRx and Karma) as Call of Duty received an unparalleled amount of viewership.
The presence of eSports is slowly creeping into mainstream entertainment, with dedicated streaming platforms being provided and events being broadcasted on national television. For example, TI4 (DOTA2) was watched by millions of people online, while being televised by ESPN.
Some of the world’s largest brands are also getting involved with eSports, with names such as Monster Energy, American Express and Red Bull sponsoring organisations and individual players, as they showcase their talents to the audience of the world.
With an increased amount of people attending and competing in Call of Duty events worldwide, the scale of events have grown monumentally. MLG Anaheim saw over 150 teams competing in the Season 3 Play in Bracket and more recently, G3, filled an entire Olympic venue with over 4,000 eSports fans.
The Future – Advanced Warfare and eSports
In my opinion, the future of Call of Duty eSports looks very promising. Sledgehammer Games have announced their continued support for eSports in Advanced Warfare and have included several essential options within the game, such as a ranked playlist and LAN lobbies. As well as this, the release of Advanced Warfare also saw the return of fan-favourite game modes, Hardpoint and Capture the Flag and features the classic 3-lane map design.
With the colloboration between Major League Gaming and X Games, an improved seasonal league and the increased amount of large organisations and brands showing an interest within competitive Call of Duty, 2015 could well and truly be the most significant year for the fastest growing eSports title on the planet.