How the Call of Duty League Can Avoid Overwatch League Mistakes

by in Call of Duty | Jul, 15th 2020

The Call of Duty League is the premier example of how an esports league can be handled. Modeled after the NBA, NFL, and the like, it is only the second league of its kind in gaming after the Overwatch League. But it needs to learn from the Overwatch League mistakes of the past.

Call of Duty League Needs to Be Careful Moving Into Season 2

The one great thing about the Call of Duty League is that it benefits from one single thing; hindsight is 2020 vision. Though both this league and the Overwatch League come from Activision Blizzard, they are already wildly different based on their mantras and how they are handled.

While the Overwatch League is having its third season right now, the Call of Duty League is getting started with its inaugural one. It does seem a bit weird that Overwatch would get a league like this before the long-running, annualized Call of Duty games, but here we are.

In fact, at the time of writing this, we are sitting right at the end of the Call of Duty League with only a few more events left before the championship and the end of the first season. That means that it is already time to start looking ahead at what’s next for the league.

Overall, I would say that the Call of Duty League has had a successful first year all things considered, given that the season took a sudden shift with everything that happened in the world. With that said, the transitions have been pretty decent and, overall, handled better than a certain other league.

But with a second season of the Call of Duty League set to come next year, likely with a brand new Call of Duty game in tow, it runs the risk of running into some of the same problems and mistakes that the Overwatch League has run into in recent years.

That is why I am going to write this post, not necessarily about what the Call of Duty League should do in its second season (that’s for another time), but how it can avoid the Overwatch League mistakes plaguing the esports organization and causing it to falter. Let’s go ahead and take a look.

What Overwatch League Mistakes It Needs to Avoid: Expanding Too Much

I am going to bring up some of the biggest Overwatch League mistakes that I think are relevant to the Call of Duty League and need addressing to ensure that the league grows and doesn’t stagnate or, worse, decline because of these issues.

The first one is a big one, literally: the Call of Duty League needs to learn from the mistake that the Overwatch League made of expanding too much and far too quickly. Expansion is an excellent thing that the league should do, but moderately.

Rather than not expanding at all, the key is to balance expansion in a way that doesn’t water down the league’s meta and make it so that you have a bunch of mediocre teams that don’t make a whole lot of sense for being there in the first place.

Take the Overwatch League, for instance. In its first season, it had 12 teams. In its second season, it nearly doubled that number by adding eight more teams to its roster for a new total of 20. Guess what other league has 12 teams in its first season? Well, you would be right to guess the Call of Duty League.

We have already heard some rumors and teases about teams joining the Call of Duty League in the second season, so it stands to reason that expansion will happen no matter what. I think that is a great thing as there needs to be more than the 12 we already have.

However, it needs to be done smartly. I’m not saying that 20 teams couldn’t work (maybe, maybe not), but it certainly shouldn’t be attempted until several years into a league’s history. It needs to establish itself first, so there should only be a handful of new teams in the second season.

If it were me deciding, I would only add two or so to the roster to expand it some and keep the even number but not add too much. You could add four, maybe, but even that could too radically change the format of the Call of Duty League too soon and harm the league in the process.

The Call of Duty League needs to learn from the Overwatch League mistakes and not expand too soon, hurting the competition. But what it does need to do is expand to areas that it hasn’t reached yet like Asia, South America, and other parts of the world.

Overwatch League Mistakes: Making the League the Only True Option

The second of the Overwatch League mistakes is another massive one: making the tier one league the only true option. The Overwatch League formed in a way that there would be three tiers of competitions, plus the amateurs who haven’t made a name for themselves.

You have the league in tier one, the Contenders in tier two, and the open competitors in tier three. The Overwatch community has long lamented how poorly the league has handled the second and third tiers. It doesn’t look to be getting better anytime soon.

The Call of Duty League, on the other hand, has a fairly similar format with the Challengers division. That is where semi-pro players can compete for a chance to be noticed by the main league. It has already worked out in favor of some of them, even in the inaugural season.

Though it is a bit more open than the Contenders that have become tiny and too exclusive, the Challengers is still only one part of the league beyond the actual 12 main pro teams. Beyond that, there isn’t much to the Call of Duty League and pro competition, which is a problem.

There needs to be a broader perspective that allows for more third-party competitions that aren’t hosted by Activision. The best way this can come about is by having the company support these competitions, even if it is just by adding options to encourage them.

Warzone is a great example of this, as it isn’t the main game that the pros are playing in the league, but even it hasn’t been handled well. It needs more private lobby options for third-party companies to create competitions for players who aren’t in the league to play in. Or else every season will be the same pro players playing with roughly the same outcome.

Mistake: Not Listening to the Fans and Players

One of the Overwatch League mistakes is not listening to its players and fans alike. This is a problem that isn’t just speculation as it has revealed itself in how the players and fans have reacted to the league. An unbelievable number of players have left the league in only its first two seasons.

And then the fan views of watching the league live have dropped considerably, no longer even reaching the amazing numbers that it did in the first season. The league is doing things wrong and ignoring its players and fan base in the process.

This is an issue that needs to be addressed and soon, but it is also something that the Call of Duty League can learn from. If it wants to keep its players and fans satisfied, it needs to be willing to listen and learn from them. After all, they are the reason this whole thing is happening in the first place.

When the fans don’t like a sudden change to the schedule or how it is streamed or whatever, Activision needs to be ready to listen to that and possibly make a change. When the players are voicing their opinion on a controversial decision or format change, the organizers need to be ready to address that.

Mistake: Making the Season Too Long

One strange issue that the Overwatch League has is that it is too long for a normal season. The season has several phases. Each one lasts for a good while. And then, when the phase is over, there is only a really short break before the next one kicks up.

The league’s seasons go for months without a break for the players who will, in the future, travel all over the world for games. This leads to some serious burnout, some of which might be why some of the players have left.

This burnout is real and a major issue that can affect the players and the organizers as well. Having everyone tired and not giving their all is a surefire way of failing in the end, and disappointing the audience.

If I’m honest, the schedule for the first season of the Call of Duty League has largely already fixed this mistake and made sure that it isn’t as egregious as how the Overwatch League handles its season. But there is always a chance that the Call of Duty League could change things. It needs to be mindful if it does so it doesn’t last too long.

Mistake: Not Figuring Out a Solid Meta

This final mistake that the Overwatch League has made is also the most alarming one for the Call of Duty League, and that is not figuring out a solid meta that will work across multiple seasons. The Overwatch League has had to change its meta nearly every season, resulting in dramatically different results.

From controversially focusing on tanks and supporting one season to making it more balanced the next, these huge changes to the metagame are problematic. They can cause players to sit on the bench the whole season or quit the league.

This is not only a major problem but probably the scariest one on this list for the Call of Duty League. After all, the entire league is predicated on the fact that it will likely change its league game every year to whatever the newest mainline Call of Duty game is.

Essentially, the metagame will change every single season. The current meta of the first season has been a controversial one. SMGs in Modern Warfare has been a problem throughout the season and not just in the league.

The community as a whole has hated the emphasis on the SMG weapons and are patiently waiting for the next game to release so that it will hopefully have a more appealing metagame. This is related to the development side, but Activision can help this by making the players involved.

Every season, before the matches begin, the players and teams should be working together with the organizers to decide what the new ruleset and meta will be for the season. While it won’t fundamentally fix design issues from the game, it can alleviate some of the stress and problems if the players have a say in it. Here’s hoping this is the case in Season 2 and beyond.


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