The next season of competitive Call of Duty will feature teams representing different cities from multiple countries as we have seen with other esports. On the surface, this seems like a breakthrough for the game and for esports as a whole, however, this change is negatively impacting those who have been around the game for a long time.
Typically, the teams that compete within competitive gaming represent an organization. These organizations help their players with travel, lodging, equipment, etc. in exchange for the player’s skill within the game they play. In 2018, one of the highest-viewed and played games, Overwatch, announced the inaugural season of the Overwatch League(OWL).
What was unique for the OWL was that the teams playing would be city-based rather than the traditional organization teams. Cities like Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York all found themselves represented in the game. Foreign cities like Shanghai, Seoul, and Toronto also had teams in the OWL. The result was that many organizations were having to drop out of the game due to the expense and effort expected of them. With competitive gaming still being an up and coming business, many organizations simply didn’t have the money or time or people to suffice for the OWL.
It was announced that for the next Call of Duty season the league will be moving to the franchised format similar to that of the OWL. As mentioned, this means more money being needed from organizations in order for them to participate.
Matthew Haag, AKA Nadeshot, is one of the most recognizable names within esports as a whole. Nadeshot is a former pro COD player and won multiple championships within the game. He was also named the best esports player of the year at The Video Game awards in 2014. He has since retired from playing but is still very active as owner and CEO of the organization 100 Thieves, who have teams in many different esports, Call of Duty included. Their team actually finished in 2nd place in the 2019 Call of Duty Finals last month. Last week, in a youtube video on his channel, Haag revealed that it was impossible for his org, 100 Thieves, to continue to pursue a team within the new Call of Duty pro league for 2019. He says that despite the fanbase and support behind 100 Thieves, the organization is still relatively small and that the demand is just too great to pursue. He even goes so far as to say joining the CDL would “jeopardize” the whole organization. You can see his video below. It is very clear after watching the video that this decision did not come as an easy one. I highly suggest at least watching the first 3 minutes just to see the emotion of Haag when it comes to this decision.
Not only are organizations as a whole being affected by the change but players as well. As organizations drop their teams, players become free agents, open for signing by any organization wishing to pursue them. James Eubanks, known as Clayster, is a former WVU student and his team eUnited won the 2019 Call of Duty Finals championship. Despite being a member of the championship team, Clay is still searching for a team. He hasn’t even had any inquiries according to some of his tweets that were posted less than a day before this post was written. These tweets are below:
It is yet to be told what kind of impact(s) will be made by the enfranchisement of the pro teams for Call of Duty. Early indications however show that for organizations and their players, this is only the beginning of a long, complicated road ahead.