Looking ahead to Call of Duty Champs, CoD: Vanguard, and the implications of CoD’s yearly release cycle for its esports scene

Call of Duty League

Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War’s competitive season is coming to a close this weekend with the World Championships — or ‘Champs’ for short — taking place from Thursday 19th to Sunday 22nd August, with some of the event’s top players hailing from the UK.

Toronto Ultra, a team owned by esports conglomerate OverActive Media, has three British players in its starting roster of four and has been one of the best teams all season, winning the Stage 2 Major, placing second in the Stage 5 Major, and placing third at the Stage 3 and 4 Majors.

Scottish player Cameron ‘Cammy’ McKilligan has been one of competitive CoD’s standout players all year; same goes for Jamie ‘Insight’ Craven, who may well win rookie of the season; and Ben Bance (surname also server name), an experienced player who has played on top teams for multiple years going back to Advanced Warfare.

With each new season of competitive Call of Duty, a new group of players seems to excel. Every esport sees promising rookies and impressive new teams burst onto the scene, but with CoD it appears more extreme.

Call of Duty pros are forced to deal not just with regular patches and updates, but with an entirely new game to play each year. There are new maps to learn; new spawn systems; new guns to master; new bugs; an entirely new playstyle every 12 months. Never was this more glaring than during CoD’s infamous ‘jetpack era’, when Advanced Warfare marked a fundamental shift in how the franchise would be played for the next three years. Though plenty of former Halo players have gone pro in CoD, millions of fans thought the change unwelcome.

I have argued in the past that CoD’s yearly new-game release cycle is bad for its esports scene. Activision, perhaps understandably, cares far more about its bottom line than its relatively small competitive scene. Compared to its enormous player base Call of Duty has a small esports following; whereas League of Legends and CS:GO have esports at their core, Call of Duty feels different. 68% of total League of Legends fans watch LoL esports, according to Statista. That number is 51% for CS:GO — still high. Call of Duty has many millions of players but struggles to break 50,000 concurrent viewers unless OpTic Gaming is playing.

Looking ahead to Call of Duty: Vanguard

Despite this, there’s certainly cause for optimism in CoD esports at the moment. The return of live audiences and LAN competition has been a well-needed boost, and particularly for the UK the future of competitive CoD looks bright.

Fans are excited about Champs this upcoming weekend, and a new title is on the horizon which, whatever you think about CoD’s yearly release cycle in relation to its esports scene, fans, players and streamers have been reacting to the teaser trailer for Call of Duty: Vanguard:

Some aren’t so optimistic:

An in-game event promoting CoD: Vanguard is on the way to Warzone, Thursday August 19th

It also appears that on Thursday August 19th at 6:30pm BST, Acitivision is running an in-game Warzone event to promote CoD: Vanguard:

Fans have been sharing such images as above. The most recent Call of Duty title, Black Ops Cold War, was promoted using an in-game event in Warzone last year. Publishers are acknowledging the success of events in games like Fortnite, it seems; they get people talking.

Thursday marks the beginning of Champs as well as the big reveal for Vanguard. Fans are looking forward to the weekend, and for CoD esports, EU fans will hope Toronto Ultra can replicate their Stage 2 Major win and become world champions on Sunday.

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