CDL upends format weeks before debut

ATVI recently announced a shift in the Call of Duty League’s format—or so they would have you believe.1

Originally, the CDL intended to run a series of events internationally to facilitate league matches. These events—a sort of CDL World Tour, if you like—would also play host to a amateur system’s tournament series.

In a statement published this past Christmas Eve, ATVI announced it would replace these league matches with what it calls “pro tournaments.” The CDL is quick to point out that this change means more professional matches will be played at each event and, as a result, it will build more hype for its on-site spectators and stream audience.

The CDL World Tour remains a huge risk for ATVI’s latest esports venture, but there are more warning signs in the statement that suggest the CDL might not be what fans expect (especially in the context of the Overwatch League).

If watchability is truly a focus for ATVI, you’d think you’d be able to cite OWL’s operation as an example of success. This is not the case.

However, CODXVI is, thankfully, simpler than its previous iterations. By abandoning a class-based meta preferred by previous series iterations, the game’s mechanics and weapon selection will have a chance to shine in the spotlight. Personally, I have concerns about the frantic pace and sheer complexity of a typical COD match being too much to digest in a single stream for the uninitiated viewer—especially on respawn-enabled game modes. This fundamental issue is something that most team-based esports struggle with the most, and OWL is no exception.

And what are “pop-culture infusions,” anyway? Concerts? Raves? A Call of Duty-meets-Ingress clone? Gimmicks like these might not turn out to be total train wrecks, but it’s hard to guess at what ATVI have in mind.

On the other hand, fan-first experiences have tremendous potential, though these might be as straightforward as announcements of new content for CODXVI. These experiences will more than likely mean on-site playable demos of new multiplayer content and new weapons. Though it’s a shame that those lucky enough to make the pilgrimage will earn this privilege, the hype it could generate will help maintain the stability of CODXVI going forward.

I, for one, do hope we are getting an expansion of what turned out to be an impressive re-telling of the early beats of Modern Warfare’s namesake.

The CDL remains something to keep an eye on, regardless of the turmoil currently embroiling ATVI’s other franchise-based esports venture—no—especially because of that other venture currently in meltdown mode. If the CDL took any lessons learned from OWL, I hope they found committed staff with fresh ideas on creating watchable content instead of relying on a sheer mountain of cash to attract the hype it needs to maintain critical mass.

Not changing games every year would be a start.